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TREES & plants

American black currant

Leaves and flowers of American black currant.

American black currant is a thornless, erect native shrub with showy yellow flowers in early spring followed by edible black berries in mid-summer. Excellent for moist shady sites.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

Botanical name: 
Ribes americanum
All Common Names: 
American black currant; wild black currant
Family (English): 
Gooseberry
Family (Botanic): 
Grossulariaceae
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Foliage: 
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Native Locale: 
  • Chicago area, 
  • Illinois, 
  • North America
Landscape Uses: 
  • Massing, 
  • Mixed border
Size Range: 
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet), 
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)
Mature Height: 
3 to 5 feet high
Mature Width: 
3 to 5 fee wide
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), 
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 3, 
  • Zone 4, 
  • Zone 5 (Chicago), 
  • Zone 6
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
Acid Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Alkaline Soils: 
  • Tolerant
Salt Spray: 
  • Intolerant
Drought Conditions: 
  • Moderately Tolerant
Poor Drainage: 
  • Prefers
Ornamental Interest: 
  • Edible fruit, 
  • Persistent fruit/seeds, 
  • Showy fruit, 
  • Showy flowers, 
  • Attractive bark
Season of Interest: 
  • Early winter, 
  • Mid spring, 
  • Mid summer, 
  • Late summer, 
  • Early fall
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Yellow
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching, 
  • Multi-stemmed, 
  • Round, 
  • Upright
Growth Rate: 
  • Fast
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

Plant in full sun to part shade for best fruit production.
Plants become spindly in too much shade.
Best in moist soil. Plants will show signs of stress in dry, hot sites.

Disease, pests, and problems

Leaf spots, rust, cane blights

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Tolerant of black walnut toxicity.

Native geographic location and habitat

Occurs in moist woods and floodplain of the upper Midwest.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Fruits are eaten by many birds and other wildlife.

Bark color and texture 

Older stems develop ridges from leaf scars, twigs are pale brown with golden colored glands.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, 2 1/2 inch long leaves with 3 to 5 lobes. Leaf margins are single to double toothed. A medium green with resin dots on upper surface, hairy veins beneath with golden resin dots.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Bright yellow-green flowers hang in 2 to 3 inch clusters in early to mid-spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A  short-lived, dark purple, 1/4-inch berry ripens in mid-summer and hangs in chain-like clusters along the stem. 

 

Ribes americanum or American black currant