Ribes nigrum 'Ben Sarek'

Common Name: black currant 
Type: Fruit
Family: Grossulariaceae
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: April
Bloom Description: Greenish-yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Leaf: Fragrant
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Rabbit


Best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Prefers cool summer climates. Some part afternoon shade is appreciated in hot summer climates such as the St. Louis area. Best sited in locations protected from strong winter winds and frost pockets. Appreciates a good compost mulch for the root zone. Water regularly as needed to keep soils uniformly moist. Avoid overhead watering however. Plants are self-fertile. Often sold as bare root plants by nurseries. Space 3' apart. Prune as needed during the dormant season. It is generally recommended that stems older than 2 years on black currants be removed. May take 4-5 years for plants to become well-established and reach full fruit-bearing potential.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ribes nigrum, commonly known as black currant, is a deciduous shrub primarily grown for fruit production. Clusters of greenish-yellow flowers bloom in spring, and are noticeable but not particularly ornamental. Flowers give way to long, pendant clusters of black currants which ripen in June-July. Medium green leaves are 3-5 lobed, and are aromatic when crushed. Currants may be eaten ripe off the shrub or used to make jams, jellies and pies.

The genus name Ribes is derived from the Arabic ribas, the name used for Rheum ribes (Syrian rhubarb), an unrelated, wild rhubarb species. European herbalists possibly connected the two due to the acidic flavor of the flowering stem of R. ribes, or the visually similar panicles of red fruits.

Specific epithet means black.

'Ben Sarek' is a compact, mounding, densely branched selection of black currant that will reach 3-4' tall with a similar spread. This cultivar is the result of a cross between Ribes nigrum 'Goliath' and R. nigrum 'Ojebyn'. The berries are large and flavorful.


In wet, humid conditions, anthracnose, powdery mildew and fungal leaf spot can be troublesome. Currant aphid, scale, currant bud mite and currant fruit fly are potential insect pests in some areas. Black currants are an alternate host for white pine blister rust, a usually fatal disease for white pines. Ten states primarily in the eastern United States currently maintain various types of bans on Ribes species plants. Contact your local Extension Service to verify if black currant can be grown in your area. Missouri has no restrictions. Notwithstanding state and local legislation, black currants should not be planted in any area where the disease is prevalent. In areas where the disease is not prevalent (such as Missouri), it is still best to avoid planting black currents in locations where white pines are growing unless rust-resistant cultivars (e.g., 'Consort') are used.

'Ben Sarek' is considered resistant to white pine blister rust.


Fruit or vegetable gardens. Can also make an attractive ornamental hedge in the landscape.