Ribes aureum

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: buffalo currant 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Grossulariaceae
Native Range: North America
Zone: 4 to 8
Height: 3.00 to 7.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: April to May
Bloom Description: Yellow-orange
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Good Fall
Attracts: Birds, Hummingbirds, Butterflies
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Rabbit, Drought, Erosion, Clay Soil

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates a wide range of soils ranging from dry to seasonally flooded ones. Tolerates poor soils, clay soils and drought. Prefers consistent and even moisture. Avoid overhead watering. Some part afternoon shade is appreciated in hot summer climates, but fewer flowers and fruits are usually produced in part shade conditions. Appreciates a good organic mulch for the root zone. Propagate by cuttings or seed. Spreads by suckers to form colonies in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ribes aureum, commonly known as golden currant, is an upright, rhizomatous, leathery-leaved, multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub that typically grows to 3-7’ tall with a slightly smaller spread. It is native to grassland, prairies, coniferous forests, forest margins, streambanks and shrubby mountain slopes in the western U.S. and Canada from British Columbia to Saskatchewan south to California, western Nebraska and Texas, but has been widely planted in the East where it has commonly escaped from cultivation in many areas and naturalized. Ribes odoratum primarily native from Minnesota and South Dakota south to Louisiana and Texas, is closely related to the species herein and is now being listed in some references as Ribes aureum var. villosum.

Notable features of the species include: (a) three-lobed broad-ovate to rounded glossy light green leaves (1-2” long) which turn reddish-purple in fall; (b) drooping 5-15 flowered clusters (wand-like racemes) of monoecious, narrow-tubular, spicily-fragrant, yellow-maturing-to-orange flowers which bloom in April-May; (c) drooping clusters of glossy, black, edible, 1/3” fruits (currants) which ripen mid to late summer (July-August); (d) spineless twigs; (e) dark silver-gray bark.

Golden currant is primarily grown as an ornamental shrub rather than for harvest of its fruit. The fruit should not be overlooked, however, because it can be eaten raw from the shrub or made into juices, jams, jellies, tarts or pies.

Genus name comes from the Danish word ribs meaning red currant.

Specific epithet comes from the Latin word aureus meaning golden in reference to flower color.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. In wet, humid conditions, anthracnose, powdery mildew and fungal leaf spot can be troublesome. Susceptible to honey fungus. Currant aphid, scale, currant bud mite and currant fruit fly are potential insect pests in some areas. Although much less so than with black currants (Ribes nigrum), golden currants are an alternative host for white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), a usually fatal disease for white pines. Fifteen (15) States currently maintain various types of bans on Ribes species plants, the most restrictive being the total ban on all Ribes plants in North Carolina. Missouri has no restrictions. Notwithstanding state and local legislation, currants should not be planted in any area where the disease is prevalent (particularly the East and Northwest). In areas where the disease is not prevalent (such as Missouri), it is still best to avoid planting currants in locations where white pines are growing unless rust-immune cultivars are used.

Garden Uses

Attractive ornamental hedge in the landscape. It is grown today primarily for its attractive ornamental features (flowers, fruit and foliage) but also for its tasty, edible fruit and edible flowers. Woodland gardens. Dappled shade. Along fence or wall. Wildlife habitat.