Ribes rubrum (Garden Red Currant)

Plant Info
Also known as: Red Currant, Cultivated Currant
Family:Grossulariaceae (Gooseberry)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; disturbed soil; gardens, woods, thickets, old fields, fencerows, vacant lots
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:2 to 5 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:none
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Arching to dangling clusters of 8 to 20 stalked flowers, one or more clusters arising from leaf axils. Flowers are about ¼ inch across, saucer-shaped with 5 inconspicuous, erect, creamy to pinkish petals. Alternating with the petals are 5 stamens with creamy colored, dumbbell-shaped tips (anthers). The calyx cupping the flower is yellowish to greenish, hairless and not glandular, with 5 sepal lobes that are rather petal-like, much larger and showier than the actual petals. Sepals are yellowish to greenish and often tinged pink, broadly egg-shaped and typically rolled under. Between the calyx and flower stalk is a smooth, green ovary. At the base of the flower stalk is a hairless, short, broad, squarish to egg-shaped bract. Flower stalks are up to about ¼ inch long, hairless or minutely hairy but not glandular.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 1 to 4 inches long, 1¼ to 4½ inches wide, coarsely toothed, straight to heart-shaped at the base, with 3 to 5 primary lobes that may be again shallowly lobed. Veins are prominent and radiate from the base.

[photo of hairs on leaf underside] The upper surface is hairless or with a few scattered hairs, the lower variously covered in white hairs, more densely so along major veins and may become smooth with age. Leaf stalks are 1 to 2½ inches long, hairless to minutely hairy and may have a few glandular hairs near the base. 

[photo of red, peeling stem and lower stem] New twigs are green, with a mix of glandular and non-glandular hairs, becoming smooth and dark reddish with white lenticels (pores), and the thin outer layer peeling away. Older stems are brownish to gray and lack spines or prickles. Stems are erect to ascending.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a shiny, smooth, bright red berry ¼ to 3/8 inch in diameter.


The Ribes species consist of both gooseberries and currants. Currants are distinguished by their lack of any spines, prickles or thorns on the stems, which all gooseberries have to some degree, and clusters of 6 or more flowers, where gooseberries have clusters of only 1 to 4 flowers. Garden Red Currant is a European introduction, widely cultivated for its fruit. It does escape cultivation, the seed likely spread by birds that eat the fruit, and is probably under-reported in the state. It most closely resembles the native Swamp Red Currant (Ribes triste), which has similarly shaped flowers that are typically pinkish to purplish, with anthers that are more heart-shaped than dumbbell-shaped, and has scattered glandular hairs on flower stalks, which Garden Red Currant lacks. There are also subtle differences in the leaves, described in some references, but we have not found them to be very reliable characteristics in the field, though we observed Swamp Red Currant leaves are hairier on the upper surface where Garden Red Currant is mostly hairless. Swamp Red Currant also tends to stay short and low to the ground where Garden Red Currant can reach 4 feet or more tall.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in a private garden in Anoka County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: cheryl - elm creek park
on: 2015-06-04 15:26:10

These are in disturbed soil in Elm Creek park reserve

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