Ribes hudsonianum (Northern Black Currant)
|Also known as:||Hudson Bay Currant, Western Black Currant, Stinking Currant|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist to wet; swamps, forests, thickets, streambanks|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||2 to 5 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Ascending to spreading clusters of 8 to 30 stalked flowers arising from leaf axils of lateral branches. Flowers are about ¼ inch long, generally bell-shaped, with 5 short, erect to spreading, creamy white petals. Extending from Inside the tube are 5 creamy colored stamens that are about as long as the petals. The calyx cupping the flower is green to whitish, the 5 sepal lobes rather petal-like, 3 or more times as long as the short calyx tube, much longer and showier than the actual petals, oblong-elliptic with rounded tips, widely spreading, and creamy white. The outer surface of the tube is dotted with yellow glands and the sepal lobes densely covered in short, curled hairs. Between the calyx and flower stalk is a green ovary dotted with yellow glands and may have a few hairs. At the base of the flower stalk is a lance-linear, leaf-like bract that is finely hairy and shorter than the stalk. Flower stalks are up to 1/3 inch long, hairless to sparsely hairy, and may have a few short glandular hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are 1 to 2½ inches long, 1¼ to 2¾ inches wide, coarsely toothed, 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. The upper surface is hairless to sparsely hairy, the lower dotted with yellow glands and sparsely to densely hairy, especially along the veins. Leaf stalks are typically longer than the blade, hairless to minutely hairy and dotted with yellow glands.
New twigs are green, finely hairy and gland-dotted, becoming smooth and reddish-brown with the thin outer layer peeling away. Older stems are brownish to gray with blocky lenticels (pores). Stems are multiple from the base, erect to ascending, and lack thorns or prickles. Leaves and stems have an unpleasant odor.
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. Northern Black Currant is distinguished by its erect to spreading racemes of white flowers, yellow glands dotting most parts of the plant, and foul odor. While Wild Black Currant (Ribes americanum) also has yellow glands, both leaf surfaces are dotted where Northern Black Currant is only glandular on the lower surface. Most currants have saucer-shaped flowers, but those of Northern Black Currant are more bell-shaped and more similar to gooseberries than to other currants. However, unlike gooseberries, Northern Black Currant has no prickly stems, and 8 or more flowers per cluster.
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Photos courtesy K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Lake County.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?