Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
General: Currant family (Grossulariaceae). A native shrub 1-3 m tall, spineless, with numerous, erect-arching branches forming an irregular crown up to 6 meters tall or more; bark gray to red-brown; rhizomatous. Leaves deciduous, light green and glossy, alternate or clustered, orbicular or cuneate-ovate with 3-5 rounded lobes, (0.6-)1-2.5(4.7) cm long and wide, cuneate to subcordate at base, glabrous or sometimes lightly hairy beneath. Flowers in short racemes of 5-10(-15), with the fragrance of cloves; long-tubed (from fused sepals) and trumpet-shaped, with 5 yellow sepal lobes spreading at the top, with 5, short, reddish petals inserted at the top of the tube. Fruit a berry 6-10 mm diameter, globose to ellipsoid, ripening from green to yellow to red and finally black to dark purple, with numerous seeds. The common name pertains to the conspicuous, golden flowers; “currant” is the general name for Ribes fruit.
Variation within the species: Ribes odoratum, often considered a distinct species, recognized by its considerably larger flowers, has been placed (re-placed, as var. villosum) as the eastern segment of the broader species.
Var. aureum – (golden currant)
Var. gracillimum (Coville & Britt.) Jepson – (golden currant)
Var. villosum DC. – (fragrant golden currant, buffalo currant, clove currant)
synonym: Ribes odoratum H. Wendl.
Distribution: Var. aureum is widespread in the western US and southeastern Canada, with populations in Ontario and perhaps Quebec, as far south in the US as trans-Pecos Texas. Var. gracillimum is endemic to California. Var. villosum in the central US, from western Texas to Montana and eastward to New York and Vermont; it is absent from the Atlantic seaboard. The species is naturalized in Europe from garden escapes. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.