Ribes glandulosum (Skunk Currant)
|Also known as:
|part shade, shade; moist to wet; swamps, bogs, conifer and mixed forests, thickets, ravines, rocky shores
|May - June
|1 to 3 feet
|Wetland Indicator Status:
|GP: OBL MW: FACW NCNE: FACW
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):
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Erect to ascending clusters arising from leaf axils on lateral branches, made up of 6 to 15 stalked flowers. Flowers are ¼ to 1/6 inch across, saucer to bell-shaped with a shallow, bowl-shaped tube. The 5 petals are tiny, erect, more or less spoon-shaped, pink to purplish, alternating with 5 pink to purple stamens that are about the same length as the petals. The calyx cupping the flower is yellowish to greenish white, hairless to sparsely hairy and sometimes glandular, with 5 sepal lobes that are rather petal-like, much larger and showier than the actual petals, rounded or lobed at the tips, widely spreading and white to creamy colored.
Between the calyx and flower stalk is a green ovary covered in red glandular hairs. At the base of the flower stalk is a lance-linear, leaf-like bract that is much shorter than the stalk and covered in glandular hairs. Flower stalks are up to about 1/3 inch long sparsely to moderately covered in a mix of glandular and non-glandular hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are 1 to 2 inches long, 1¼ to 3 inches wide, coarsely toothed, heart-shaped at the base, with 5 to 7 primary lobes that may be again shallowly lobed. Veins are prominent and radiate from the base. Leaf stalks are 1 to 3 inches long and hairless to sparsely glandular, and may have a few long hairs at the base.
New twigs are green, sparsely hairy and glandular, becoming smooth and gray the second year with tiny brown 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 but more often sprawling, rooting at the nodes and spreading vegetatively. The leaves and stems emit a skunk-like odor when broken, though it may be faint.
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. Skunk Current is easily distinguished when flowering or fruiting by the glandular hairs on the ovary, becoming bristly glandular hairs on the fruits, and stems that lack spines or bristles. The most similar species is Swamp Black Currant (Ribes lacustre), which also has similar glandular hairs on flowers and fruits, but has very bristly stems and is the exception to the “no spines or bristles” rule for currants in Minnesota. Of note is in all the references checked, it's stated that the upper leaf surface of R. glandulosum is hairless, but in many images we took from populations in various locations we could see an obvious hair-like covering, though the images were not clear enough to determine what it was. Under a microscope these were shown to be minute glandular hairs, i.e. tiny glands on a minute stalk—difficult to see or photograph unless the light catches it just right, but glimpses of it can be seen in some of the images shown below.
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- Skunk Currant plant
- Skunk Currant plant
- Skunk Currant in moss-covered rock habitat
- minute glandular hairs on upper leaf surface
- leaf scan
- flower cluster (and note the leaf texture)
- flowers with lobed sepals
Photos by K. Chayka taken in Cook County and at Banning State Park, Pine County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook and Pine counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?