Ribes aureum (Golden Currant)

Plant Info
Also known as: Buffalo Currant, Flowering Currant
Genus:Ribes
Family:Grossulariaceae (Gooseberry)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, sun; average to moist soil; fencerows, roadsides, open woods, prairies, rocky slopes, bluffs, thickets, stream banks
Bloom season:April - May
Plant height:3 to 7 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FACU
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 Flower shape: tubular Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Ascending to drooping clusters of 5 to 18 short-stalked flowers arising from leaf axils of lateral branches. Flowers are ¼ to ¾ inch long, tubular, with 5 short, erect yellow petals that turn orange or dark red with age. Surrounding the petals are 5 spreading sepals that are bright golden yellow, more petal-like and showier than the actual petals. The floral tube (hypanthium) is 1.5 to 3 times as long as the sepals, yellow to greenish and slightly swollen at the base.

[photo of flowers with red petals] Inside the tube are 5 stamens that are nearly as long as the petals and a green style that extends beyond the petals. Flower stalks are up to 1/3 inch long, hairless or covered in long, soft hairs. At the base of the flower stalk is a lance-linear, leaf-like bract that is hairless to finely hairy and about as long as stalk. Flowers have a spicy fragrance.

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

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 2/3 to 3 inches wide, as long as or shorter than wide, broadly diamond-shaped to oval in outline, usually with 3 main rounded or bluntly pointed lobes (rarely more) that may be further divided into shallow lobes. Edges are toothless or with a few blunt to rounded teeth and often fringed with short hairs, especially when young; both surfaces are hairless to sparsely hairy and sometimes gland-dotted. Leaf bases are wedge-shaped to somewhat heart-shaped. Leaf stalks are up to about 1 inch long and hairless to finely hairy.

[photo of upper stem with flaking bark] First year twigs are green and minutely hairy. Upper stems become red-gray with a thin bark that flakes away.

[photo of mature bark] Older, lower stems are gray and smooth except for large, raised lenticels (pores). Stems are erect, multiple from the base.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a smooth, round berry ¼ to 1/3 inch in diameter that ripens from green to orange, red, or black.

Notes:

The Ribes species consist of both gooseberries and currants. Gooseberries are distinguished by at least some stems having spines or thorny prickles, which currants lack, and clusters of only 1 to 4 flowers, where currants have racemes of usually 6 or more flowers. Golden Currant, also known as Ribes odoratum, is fairly distinctive with its large yellow flowers, lack of spines or prickles, and it has the largest leaves of the genus (to 3+ inches wide). The DNR currently lists it as native to Minnesota but that is questionable. The majority of herbarium records note habitats of farm fields and other cultivated settings, rather than the prairies or rocky slopes where it is naturally occurring in the Great Plains. It's been widely planted as an ornamental and its widely scattered distribution in the state also indicates introduced populations.

There are 3 recognized varieties of Ribes aureum: var. aureum is a western species with a floral tube not more than twice as long as the sepals, and flower petals turn orange; var. gracillimum has a natural range limited to California with a floral tube 2 to 3 times as long as the sepals but not more than ½ inch (12mm) long, and flower petals turn dark red; var. villosum, present from the Great Plains eastward, has a floral tube about 3 times as long as the sepals and up to ¾ inch (20mm) long, and petals turn orange. While var. villosum is the only one recorded in Minnesota, plants in (or escaped from) cultivation may be any of these varieties. The plants we found in South Dakota had dark red petals, not orange.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in South Dakota. Ribes aureum fruit By Annelis, via Wikimedia Commons, used under CC BY-SA 3.0

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