Scientific Name: Ribes spp.
Common Name: Flowering Currant
Plant Type: Small shrub to 8'
Environment: Prefers neutral to acidic clay soil, part sun to shade
Bloom: February to April
Uses: Great as a native garden plant, extremely attractive in spring; excellent for attracting birds
Other: One cultivar of Ribes was introduced from our garden: Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum 'Strybing Pink', which has very long, pendulous racemes of rich rose-pink flowers. It can be found in beds 48G and 48I along the paved path in the Redwood Grove and in bed 38B in the California Native Garden. Like many plants, the taxonomy (scientific naming) of the Ribes family Grossulariaceae differs between botanists. Some clump all of the species into Ribes, while others split gooseberries into their own genus Grossularia. These two viewpoints are known as 'clumping' and 'splitting' and make it interesting, yet challenging to decide on which taxonomy to support. The fruits are edible and used in cooking and baking.
Two of the most decorative members of our western chaparral are the flowering currants. These five to eight foot shrubs are in their glory during the winter months in the California Native garden. It is then that their racemes of delicate flowers in shades of white to pink to purple and red hang from the bare branches giving color to the drab winter landscape. Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum prefers the foggy coastal scrub and woodland, and Ribes malvaceum the drier chaparral of the foothills. There are other species across California to the Sierra and north to Canada with varying characteristics.
The flowers consist of 5 showy sepals encompassing 5 petals which, although separate, overlap appearing cup-like. The sepal and petals range from white to pale pink to dark pink and even purplish in Ribes malvaceum. The leaves, by mid-spring, unfold and look like miniature maple leaves, and have a delicate fragrance. Ribes planted outside the fog belt do best when planted in the shade of large trees for protection during dry summer months. Most are fairly drought tolerant.
Gooseberries are close cousins to currants, but their stems are armed with spines as are their fruits. One outstanding gooseberry in the garden is the fuchsia-flowered species, Ribes speciosum, with scarlet tubular flowers. All members of Ribes attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Docent Joanne Taylor, Text by Docent Kathy McNeil, Profile by David Kruse-Pickler