Wild Currant

There are about 50 species of Ribes in the United States; a good half of those are native to the Pacific Northwest, and of those, a very few are available to local gardeners.

They are a varied lot; it would be possible to find a Ribes suitable for nearly every garden setting. They bloom in a variety and intensity of color and all have berries that, while largely not palatable to humans, are great bird-attracters.

Leaves range from small and gently-lobed to palm-sized that are more sharply shaped, like that of maple; one species is fragrant like cloves and one has an odor described as unpleasantly "skunky"; some have branches that are spineless, while some are aggressively prickly; a few will accept somewhat dry conditions while others will demand wetness.

Some are strikingly beautiful and shaped to warrant a prominent place in a sun-to-dappled-shade part of the garden; others are less tame, with prominent thorns, and so more suited for a wildlife garden or hedgerow, where the berries and thorns create food and protective cover for birds.

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Ribes aureum Golden Currant

Ribes aureum Golden Currant

Generous clusters of bright yellow flowers with reddish center smelling sweetly of cloves adorn this thornless Ribes in the spring, followed by purplish berries that will make fruit-eating birds happy. Upright to arching branches typically grows 3-6'. Spreads by underground runners, so give it plenty of space or be prepared to prune or contain it in some way. Can grow in partial shade, but this one is truly happier in a sunnier spot. Native east of the Cascades, it is tolerant of heat and cold, but will also thrive in the more temperate west side of the state. Can take drier conditions than some of the other Ribes, but prefers regular water.

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Ribes bracteosum Stink Currant

Ribes bracteosum Stink Currant

Ribes bracteosum is commonly called Stink Currant with good reason. The larger more palmate leaves, when crushed, have been compared to the odor of skunk, for better or worse. Flowers are lovely small, greenish cup-shapes with flared petals and sometimes tinged with brownish purple, growing along the length of the flowering stem. Dark blue berries get a range of response as to their edibility, but birds like them. Graceful, open growth to 9' and free of thorns. Found primarily west of the Cascades in wet to boggy woodlands, it is a good habitat plant for the wet spot in the garden. (Photo credit to Clay Antieau).

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Ribes divaricatum Spreading Gooseberry, Coastal Gooseberry

Ribes divaricatum Spreading Gooseberry, Coastal Gooseberry

Spreading Gooseberry is another prime candidate for moist to wet areas, useful as barriers, hedgerows or habitat plant. The blue-black berries provide plentiful food for birds and the lethal pair of spines at each leaf node gives them protective cover. The flowers of R. divaricatum are especially attractive: similar to hardy fuchsia in shape, with reddish floral tube and reflexed calyx lobes. The tiny petals are white to reddish. Both you and visiting hummingbirds will find them beautiful. This shrub can grow to 6' and the berries are considered edible. Found primarily west of the Cascades in wet to boggy woodlands.

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Ribes sanguineum Red-flowering Currant

Ribes sanguineum Red-flowering Currant

Red-flowering Currant is the most common Ribes found in gardens and landscapes. The drooping clusters of light to deep pink flowers are one of the first things to bloom here in the Pacific Northwest, happily corresponding to the time when hummingbirds are in migration to their eventual summer breeding grounds. They will happily make a stop in your garden if you have this shrub. The leaves are small, lobed and finely textured, making it attractive shrub even when out of flower. The black berries it produces are best left to the birds, who will appreciate the taste more than you will. Adaptable to sun and partial shade, moist to somewhat dry conditions, this thornless currant grows up to 10'.

There are many cultivars of R. sanguineum available to gardeners: R. sanguineum 'White Icicle' is a white flowering form; at the other end of the spectrum are deep rosy red-flowering varieties, like 'Elk River Red' and 'King Edward VII.'

Find Natives for your garden

We offer a great selection of Northwest Natives from spring through fall. The plants featured are highlighted favorites, but they do not represent ALL of the plants we carry. For a more complete list, see our Northwest Native Plant List.

Natives

Abies: Native Fir

Natives

Acer Circinatum: Vine Maple

Natives

Actaea: Bugbane

Natives

Aquilegia: Columbine

Natives

Arbutus: Pacific Madrone

Natives

Asarum: Wild Ginger

Natives

Asclepias: Milkweed

Natives

Attracting Butterflies

Natives

Camassia: Camas

Natives

Ceanothus: Wild Lilac

Natives

Cornus sericea

Red Twig Dogwood
Natives

Corylus cornuta

Beaked Hazelnut
Natives

Dodecatheon: Shooting Star

Natives

Edible Fruits

Natives

Erigeron: Fleabane

Natives

Eriophyllum: Oregon Sunshine

Natives

Native Ferns

Natives

Fragaria: Wild Strawberry

Natives

Gaultheria shallon: Salal

Natives

Holodiscus: Oceanspray

Natives

Attracting Hummingbirds

Natives

Native Iris

Natives

Lewisia: Bitterroot

Natives

Mahonia: Oregon Grape

Natives

Malus fusca

Western Crabapple
Natives

Osmaronia: Indian Plum

Natives

Penstemon: Beard Tongue

Natives

Philadelphus: Mock Orange

Natives

Physocarpus

Western Ninebark
Natives

Pinus: Native Pine

Natives

Quercus: Garry Oak

Natives

Rhamnus: Cascara

Natives

Ribes: Wild Currant

Natives

Rosa: Wild Rose

Natives

Rubus: Salmonberry

Natives

Sambucus: Elderberry

Natives

Sedum: Stonecrop

Natives

Sidalcea: Checker Mallow

Natives

Sisyrinchium

Blue-eyed Grass
Natives

Solidago: Goldenrod

Natives

Symphoricarpos: Snowberry

Natives

Synthyris: Native Figwort

Natives

Trillium: Wake Robin

Natives

Vaccinium: Huckleberry

Natives

Vancouveria: Inside-out Flower

Natives

Viburnum trilobum

Cranberrybush
Natives

Viola: Violet

Natives

Winter Interest