Ribes triste (Swamp Red Currant)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Grossulariaceae (Gooseberry)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, shade, sun; moist to wet; bogs, coniferous woods, stream banks, seeps
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: OBL MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Arching to dangling clusters of 6 to 15 stalked flowers arising from leaf axils. Flowers are about ¼ inch across, saucer-shaped with 5 inconspicuous, erect, stubby pink to purplish petals. Alternating with the petals are 5 stamens nearly as long as the petals with creamy colored, heart-shaped tips (anthers). The calyx cupping the flower is purplish or greenish, hairless and not glandular, with 5 sepal lobes that are rather petal-like, much larger and showier than the actual petals. Sepals are pink to purplish or greenish, broadly wedge-shaped and typically rolled under. Between the calyx and flower stalk is a smooth, green ovary.

[photo of glandular hairs on flower stalks] At the base of the flower stalk is a short, broad bract sparsely covered in glandular hairs. Flower stalks are less than ¼ inch long, hairless or minutely hairy, with scattered short, glandular hairs.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are 1½ to 3½ inches long, 2 to 4 inches wide, coarsely toothed, straight to 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.

[photo of leaf hairs] The upper surface is sparsely hairy, the lower variously covered in white hairs, more densely so along major veins and may become smooth with age. Leaf stalks are 1 to 2½ inches long, minutely hairy with scattered short, glandular hairs. 

[photo of stem with peeling bark] New twigs are green, with a mix of glandular and non-glandular hairs, becoming smooth and reddish brown, the thin outer layer peeling away. Older stems are brownish to gray and lack spines or prickles. Stems are erect, ascending, or trailing, rooting at the nodes and stem tips.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a shiny, smooth, bright red berry ¼ to 3/8 inch in diameter.


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. Most similar to Swamp Red Currant is Garden Red Currant (Ribes rubrum), which has similarly shaped flowers that are yellowish to greenish with anthers that are dumbbell-shaped, and lacks glandular hairs on flower stalks, where Swamp Red Currant has more pinkish flowers with heart-shaped anthers, and has glandular hairs on stalks. There are also subtle differences in the leaves described in some references, but we have not found them to be very reliable characteristics in the field, though we observed Swamp Red Currant leaves are hairier on the upper surface where Garden Red Currant is mostly hairless. Swamp Red Currant also tends to stay short and low to the ground where Garden Red Currant can reach 4 feet or more tall.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Itasca and Lake counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Beth - Max
on: 2015-06-10 22:32:51

We have this growing along the fences in our field!

Posted by: Mary - Carlton County
on: 2017-07-29 10:24:53

I just found this in my pasture & will transplant some to my yard. We have a few white pine (naturally present), any chance this plant is resistant to the WP blister rust? TIA

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2017-07-29 15:55:12

Mary, we do not know how many of the Ribes species are alternative hosts for white pine blister rust. You might check with the University of MN Extension service.

Posted by: Tia Wilke - Willow River / Bremen Township, Pine County
on: 2018-05-19 19:13:58

Found growing where we had removed an ancient, dying pine on our property. Have seen no others like this one. Plenty of wild currants and a few gooseberries here.

Posted by: Kathy F. - Buse Township, Otter Tail County
on: 2018-08-11 08:09:28

This is another plant appeared in the moist woods behind our lake cottage after the removal of buckthorn!

Posted by: Victoria Ranua - St. Louis County, Tower, MN (Ancient Cedars Trail)
on: 2022-05-19 21:22:10

Located on woodland on the way to the Ancient Cedars Trail in Tower MN and on portions of the trail.

Posted by: Brett W - Mille lacs county
on: 2024-05-11 12:08:30

Blooming today in moist woods in Rum River State Forest.

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