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Ribes sanguineum
Ribes sanguineum

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Ribes

Currant, Gooseberry
Grossulariaceae (Saxifragaceae)
Deciduous, Shrubs

Those without spines are called currants; those with spines are known as gooseberries. The following species are grown ornamentally; see Currant and Gooseberry entries for strictly fruiting types. Members of this genus are alternate hosts to white pine blister rust and are still banned in a few areas where white pines grow.

Ribes aureum

Deciduous shrub. Native to inland regions of the West. Erect growth to 3–6 ft. tall and wide. Light green leaves with lobed, toothed edges. Small, bright yellow spring flowers, usually with a spicy fragrance, in 1–2 1/2-in.-long clusters. Summer berries turn from yellow to red to black. Moderate to regular water. Rust-resistant ‘Crandall’ (R. odoratum ‘Crandall’) has large, shiny black fruit with the rich, sweet-tart flavor of R. nigrum. R. a. gracillimum, the more tender California form (Zones 6–10, 14–24), has unscented blooms that age to reddish orange.

Ribes indecorum

Deciduous shrub. Native to Coast Ranges in Southern California. Grows to 6–9 ft. tall and 4–6 ft. wide. Thickish, scallop-edged leaves to 1 1/2 in. long are dark green and roughly hairy above, white and fuzzy beneath. Clusters of small white flowers enclosed in pink bracts put on a good show in winter. Needs no irrigation but will tolerate garden watering.

Ribes malvaceum

Deciduous shrub. Native to slopes in California’s Coast Ranges. Grows to 5 ft. tall and wide, with hairy, roundish dull green leaves and short clusters of fragrant pink flowers throughout fall and winter. Red fruit. Needs no irrigation, but give it moderate water if you don’t want it to go dormant in summer.

Ribes sanguineum
Ribes sanguineum

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Ribes sanguineum

Deciduous shrub. Native to Coast Ranges from California to British Columbia. Grows to 5–12 ft. tall and wide, with maplelike, dark green leaves. In spring, produces drooping, 2–4-in.-long clusters of 10 to 30 small deep pink to red flowers. Blue-black fruit has a whitish bloom. Most commonly sold is R. s. glutinosum (more southerly in origin than the species); its blossoms are typically deep or pale pink, carried in clusters of 15 to 40. ‘Barrie Coate’, ‘Elk River Red’, ‘King Edward VII’, and ‘Pulborough Scarlet’ are red-flowering selections. Pink varieties include ‘Brocklebankii’, with gold foliage; ‘Claremont’, with two-tone blossoms aging to red; ‘Poky’s Pink’; and ‘Spring Showers’, with 8-in. flower clusters. ‘Album’ and ‘White Icicle’ are good white varieties. Little to moderate water.

Ribes speciosum

Nearly evergreen shrub. Native near the coast, from the central coast of California south to Baja California. Erect growth to 4–8 ft. tall and 6–10 ft. wide, with spiny, often bristly stems. Thick-textured, maplelike, 1-in. leaves are glossy dark green above, lighter beneath. Deep crimson to cherry red flowers, borne winter to spring, are drooping and fuchsia-like, with long, protruding stamens. Gummy, bristly red berries. Excellent barrier. Needs no irrigation, but moderate water keeps it nearly evergreen in summer (it can also take regular moisture). Partial shade in hottest climates.

Ribes viburnifolium

Evergreen shrub. Native to Catalina Island and Baja California. Grows to 3–6 ft. tall and 12 ft. wide. Wine red stems are arching or half trailing; they may root in moist soil. Roundish, leathery dark green leaves are fragrant after rain or when crushed (some liken the scent to pine, others to apples). Light pink to purplish flowers from midwinter into spring. Red berries. To keep plant low, cut out upright-growing stems. Needs partial shade in hottest climates. Needs no irrigation but can take moderate water. Good on banks or under native oaks where watering is undesirable.

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