Ribes americanum (Wild Black Currant)
|Also known as:||American Black Currant, Eastern Black Currant|
|Life cycle:||perennial woody|
|Habitat:||part shade, sun; moist; open woods, streambanks, swamps, wet meadows, ravines|
|Bloom season:||May - June|
|Plant height:||2 to 5 feet|
|Wetland Indicator Status:||GP: FACW MW: FACW NCNE: FACW|
|MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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Dangling clusters 1 to 3 inches long arising from leaf axils of lateral branches, made up of 6 to 20 stalked flowers. Flowers are about ½ inch long, generally bell-shaped, pale yellow to greenish-white with 5 erect petals. Inside the tube are 5 creamy colored stamens that are about as long as the petals. The calyx cupping the flower is yellowish green, the 5 sepal lobes rather petal-like, much longer and showier than the actual petals, oblong to somewhat spatula-shaped with rounded tips, widely spreading and about the same color as the true petals. Between the calyx and flower stalk is a smooth, green ovary. At the base of the flower stalk is a lance-linear, leaf-like bract that is longer than the stalk. Flower stalks and bracts are covered in woolly hairs.
Leaves and stems:
Leaves are 1 to 2 inches long and about as wide, coarsely toothed, rounded to somewhat 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. Leaf stalks are as long as or shorter than the blade and minutely hairy to variously covered in long, bent, feathery hairs.
The upper surface is medium to dark green, smooth to sparsely hairy and usually dotted with yellow glands, the lower surface paler and more densely hairy, especially along the veins, and is gland-dotted.
New twigs are green, hairy, and gland-dotted, becoming smooth and gray with winged ridges that eventually peel away. Older stems are dark reddish with white lenticels (pores). Stems are multiple from the base, little branched, erect to ascending or sometimes arching, and lack thorns or prickles.
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 currants have saucer-shaped flowers, but those of Wild Black Currant are more bell-shaped and similar to several gooseberries species. However, unlike gooseberries, Wild Black Currant has no prickly stems, and 6 or more flowers per cluster.
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Photos by K. Chayka taken in Lake and Ramsey counties. Other photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk.
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