Wonderful Design Plant: Golden Currant

Found naturally across much of the USA and Canada, golden currant (Ribes aureum) happens in several varied habitats: prairies, stream banks borders, foothills, ponderosa pine forests and shrublands of sagebrush.

Historically, many Native American tribes combined the dried fruits of golden currant with dried buffalo meat to create a rich, mobile foodstuff known as pemmican — where another frequent name for the tree, buffalo currant, was derived. Its fresh fruit may be used to make tasty jelly, jam, pie or even ice cream. In winter the persistent fruit and dense structure of this woody shrub give an attractive habitat for wildlife.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Botanical name: Ribes aureum
Common names: Golden currant; flowering, fragrant or buffalo currant
Resource: Native to the western and central United States and Canada
USDA hardiness zones: 2 to 7 (find your zone)
Elevation range: Up to 10,000 feet

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Water necessity: Low
Light requirement: Full sun to partial shade
Mature size: 4 to 6 feet tall and wide
Advantages and tolerances: Edible flowers and fruits; adapts to a wide Selection of soils; brings birds;moderatelydeer and fire resistant
When to plant: Spring or collapse
Seasonal interest: Spring and autumn

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Distinguishing attributes. Bright yellow flowers in April and May have a pleasant, spicy odor. The flowers are followed in midsummer by persistent, marble-size fruit which ripens from yellow to reddish, or more often to purplish black.

Thornless branches sport bright green leaves which are mainly three-lobed. The autumn foliage color ranges from bright red to rich mahogany, holding for a long period through the entire year.

How to utilize it. Golden currant leaves a fantastic specimen when planted where the flowers’ fragrance along with the autumn color can be enjoyed. Additionally, it is effective in a mass planting as a hedge or screen, thanks to its dense foliage and branch construction. Golden currant comes with an upright, rounded form with medium texture.

Blend it with yuccas, low-growing junipers like Juniperus horizontalis ‘Taylors Blue’ or ‘Blue Star’, and Spanish Gold broom (Cytisus purgan ‘Spanish Gold’). Native grasses and fine-textured perennials such as columbine (Aquilegia spp) and prairie coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) make fine companion plants for golden currant.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Planting notes. Plant golden currant in full sun, partial shade or filtered shade. It’s adaptable to most soils except heavy, wet clay.

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