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Environmental Studies

Ribes americanum (Wild Black Currant) Saxifragaceae

  • Ribes americanum, or the Wild Black Currant, is a flowering shrub that is native to most of North America, including Lake County. The fruits produced by the plant are edible and can be used in a variety of sweet treats.

    Physical Characteristics

    Leaf: The leaves of the Wild Black Currant are simple, alternate, and palmate, and usually have three lobes with coarse teeth.

    Flower: The flowers of the plant are yellow-green and have a slight bell shape. They are clustered together in a drooping inflorescence. The fruit that forms is a round dark purple berry.

    Shape: The Wild Black Currant shrub can grow up to 7 feet tall.

    Ecological Characteristics

    The Wild Black Currant is naturally distributed across about half of the US and Canada, typically in partly shady, low-lying moist woodlands. The plant is endangered in Maryland but is considered an invasive weed in Michigan.

    Wild Black Currant Shrub Distribution


    Relationships with Other Species

    Non-human: Honeybees and bumblebees pollinate the flowers. The leaves are food for the caterpillars of the Green Comma Butterfly (Polygonia faunas) and the larvae of the Currant Fruit Fly (Euphantra canadensis), and a large variety of woodland creatures, including birds, squirrels, foxes, and deer, enjoy the currant itself.

    Humans: The black currant fruit has been used for human consumption for centuries. Native Americans used them for their curative properties, and both Native Americans and newly-settled Europeans used the currants to make jams and jellies, and they could be dried to make a raisin-like snack.

    Other Interesting Facts

    • The black currant fruit is a very nutritious berry, high in Vitamins A and C, and in potassium, phosphorus, and calcium.

    • R. americanum is in the gooseberry family, and is closely related to gooseberries and several other species of currants.
    • The Ribes genus lends its name to Ribena, a black currant concentrated drink that is wildly popular outside of the United States.


















    Page drafted by Adaobi Okoli

    Wild Black Currant

    (Ribes americanum)