Native golden currant bigger, better than cultivated varieties

fabaceae_nativeJuly 2, 2012

This is the time of year I get excited about the native golden currant, Ribes aureum. It is in my opinion, far superior to the cultivated currants in ease of cultivation, beauty, and fruit.

Here are some of the characteristics I value in this species:

-- drought tolerance

-- large berry size

-- asynchronous ripening

-- loose flower remnants that fall of ripe berries easily

-- vigorous growth

-- great fruiting even from seed grown plants

-- fruit of various colors (gold, red, black)

-- high edibility (not so tart) out of hand

Pictured is 4 pounds of the first flush of ripe fruit from a three year old plant that volunteered from seed.

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Probably secondary for many people on here, but it is also very ornamental, with large, showy golden yellow, fragrant flower clusters in early spring, and mine have nice fall color, in the yellow/gold/red/orange shades.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 6:38PM
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armyofda12mnkeys(7a, Philly, PA)

hey all,
I know i keep reading about two different native/clove smelling flower currants;

I see you list this native golden currant under Ribes aureum.
I bought a few plants this year from reputable nurseries a variety called 'Crandall' currant...
I believe i seen this currant under the name Buffalo Currant and Clove Currant and Golden Currant as well.
I just googled and saw Crandall listed under 'Ribes odoratum'...
Is the 'Ribes odoratum' golden currant and 'Ribes aureum' golden currant both similar to each other?
Which one do you find better?


    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 8:29PM
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My understanding of this situation is that it's all the same species, just going under two different names. It's just the taxonomists arguing with each other over very minor, highly technical details, that the names are often used interchangeably, that one name or the other is the "preferred name" depending upon source, and one name is probably older than the other. I think that R. aureum is probably the more accepted name, but sources all over the internet use both names, even for named varieties like 'Crandal'. I bought both 'Crandal' and one sold as just the species years ago, planted them right next to each other, and aside from the fact that the fruit on 'Crandal is about 50% bigger, they are completely identical. But that happens in a lot of plants -- look at the size difference between a Northern Spy and a Winesap, still all the same species.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 9:27PM
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armyofda12mnkeys(7a, Philly, PA)

Thanks denninmi for clarification...
Btw I had tried to reach you to ask about your Autumn Olives from your 'Improved Autumn Olive varieties' thread. Was just curious which ones were your favorites. Let me revive that old thread now as someone had a question on it recently.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2012 at 10:11PM
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I've got three that I grew from seed (from great tasting fruit). Hopefully next year they will be big enough to bloom, it will be their 4th Spring but we have had two harsh summers which kept them small. They are now in the ground and growing well.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2012 at 2:24PM
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Just looked at the "Crandall" in the One Green World Catalog. The leaves look quite different from my R. aureum, the latter being round-lobed, the former pointed. Also, I've never detected any scent from the many flowers of R. aureum I've smelled, whereas that would seem to be the defining characteristic of R. odoratum. Could certainly be variations of a single species though... I'm guessing that regional differences of this wide-ranging native currant are significant too.

In terms of berry size, color, quality, these all seem to be dependent on cultural and climatic conditions. I've noticed these (including color) vary from year to year on the same bush, or even from one side of the plant to the other!

Denninmi, you're right about the ornamental qualities of this plant. In fact, the well-known NM native plant expert, Judith Phillips, recommends this plant as a substitute for Forsythia here in our arid climate.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2012 at 2:16PM
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I believe these two currants (aureum vs. odoratum) must be different based on the fragrance factor. I went to a local nursery to buy odoratum, and was given Golden Currant (aureum), because they said they were the same. However my Golden Currant flowers are without fragrance, which is what I wanted the shrub for in the first place; whereas odoratum is reputed to draw one from across the yard with its strong scent. The wonderful fruit from aureum turned out to be a bonus I hadn't counted on. My aureum leaves, however are the pointed type (see link below for photo). But I'm looking to get a Crandall (odoratum) as I'm still after that elusive scent. Sounds as if having more than one currant will help with pollination anyway.

Here is a link that might be useful: Forest Farm's 'Crandall' leaves shot

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 9:14AM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

fabaceae native, could I get some seeds from you for postage?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 1:37PM
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I'd prefer a trade. Any of the following seeds I'd love:

- maypop
- American persimmon
- wineberry
- black raspberry
- goumi
- autumn olive
- or something else edible and interesting...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2012 at 2:49PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

fabaceae native, send me an email so we can set something up.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Hi fabaceae_native. I wanted to contact you about your Ribes aureum. I am doing some collecting and breeding of the varieties that I can find and am quite interested in the traits you mention of some of your NM plants. I have some local varieties that you might also be interested in if I can get ahold of you? Are you still following this thread, or can I email you somehow? Just registered here, not too familiar with how the site works. Steve

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 11:30AM
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Looks like that's two of you who want some seed (alex since last summer, oops!).

I will try to send both of you an e-mail in the next couple days.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 3:28PM
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happyballz(9A/B Valrico,Florida)


I am always willing to experiment with what I can grow here; if you have extra seeds/cuttings - I would like to get some.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 6:55PM
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Sounds good, strange that I've never seen it cultivated in Britain though. Our own species - Blackcurrants (Ribes nigrum), Gooseberries (Ribes uva crispa) and Red and white currants (Ribes rubrum) and the ornamental Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) from North America are common though.
What are Golden currants like then? Are they sweet or acidic, I'm wondering whether I should source some seeds.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 6:11PM
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Think of Ribes aureum var. aureum as the non-fragrant western form and R. aureum var. villosum as the fragrant form found more or less east of the Rocky Mountain front to Nebraska and somewhat beyond. California has, in addition to var. aureum, its own Coast Range subspecies, var. gracillimum which sounds less hardy but delicious. The western form var. aureum is adapted more to the semi-arid steppe and intermountain country of the American west, while var. villosum is adapted to the great plains. The only available nursery cultivars that I know of in America are Crandall from 1888 and Gwen's Buffalo Currant, which is a selection from Wyoming. Both of these are selections of R. aureum var. villosum. Crandall is a particularly large fruited form which is reported to be disease resistant and hardy. Variety aureum might not thrive so well in more humid climates but it is well adapted to cold, heat, and drought. The plant is reported to have a long deep taproot.

Check out the nafex discussions on Crandall Currant, Golden Currant, Buffalo Currant, Clove Currant, Ribes odoratum, villosum, and aureum. There is a lot of good information there mainly from around ten years ago.

You may actually have better luck finding cultivars in Europe. There is a Swiss guy and firm just recently marketing R. aureum as what he calls "Fourberry". You can find him on Youtube. This is probably derived from var. villosum. I would guess it is patented. If you find it available in UK I would be interested in your report. The berries look very large and black but he says an orange form will come out soon.

Ribes aureum var. aureum in the western USA must have a tremendous level of variety in flavors, colors, and local adaptations but it seems to have been totally neglected by plant breeders in spite of its very good flavors. Even var. villosum has little to show but those two cultivars, which are simply selections and not really improved since. Crandall is often marketed as an ornamental currant (Clove Currant) on account of those showy flowers with their spicy clove-like fragrance. Reports on the flavor or Crandall are generally pretty good, with most people finding the fruit quite good and the yield high. Europeans seem to prefer the stronger flavors of the European black currant however. Those European black currants are certainly the best for cooking with.

This is mostly just information that I have found online, but I do have my own local form of Ribes aureum var. aureum here with orange berries which actually seem to taste like oranges to me. The berries are only about 1 cm large but pretty good eating and quite unlike any other currant that I have ever eaten. Having found no record of anyone ever even attempting a cross between var. villosum and var. aureum, several years ago I crossed Crandall with my orange fruited native variety. The resulting plant bloomed heavily this season with a very good fragrance. It does show intermediate features, seems vigorous, and set a good crop of berries. I am quite curious just how these berries will turn out later in the summer. Further amateur breeding is in the works, which is why I am so interested in Fabaceae_native's report on his NM forms of Ribes aureum. Those diverse colors, large fruit, good flavors, and particularly that trait of the withered flowers falling free are very interesting and attractive.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2013 at 8:36PM
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If you have ever wondered about the potential of golden currant as a domesticate look no further then what Russian plant breeders have done with this species. Contrast this with almost no breeding and very little interest here in the USA, where presumably the greatest diversity of wild variation exists to work with. One drawback seen in all these cultivars and indeed a signature of the species even in most of our wild forms here, is that the long withered flowers remain attached to the fruit at harvest. I am probably not alone in my interest in selections of the New Mexican varieties which are reported to shed their flower remnant. I would guess that these Russian breeders would love to acquire this trait also.
If one uses the Google translator to Russian language for "golden currant", and then either googles and translates the hits in that language, or searches images, some outstanding cultivars of Ribes aureum come up. I have been told by a Russian contact that most of these derive originally from Crandall (R. aureum var. villosum). The sizes, colors, and teardrop shapes are just fantastic and if anyone goes to Russia or some of the Baltic countries of the former Soviet Union I would love to obtain seeds from some of these cultivars even if they probably do not come true to type. There are some discussions and photos of golden currant in Russian garden forums one can read about by translator also but the species is not yet well known as a garden variety in Russia and many Europeans and Russians prefer the stronger flavors of black currants.,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.47883778,d.aWc&biw=1366&bih=650&wrapid=tljp137124612881800&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hl=en&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&tab=wi&ei=NI67Udi5H8ytygHShYHQBg

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 5:43PM
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I'd like to talk with the people in NM experimenting with
R. aureum. Just picked some ripe orange fruits in Pagosa
springs Co and would like to discuss varieties that may work well. I can be contacted at orders at cuttsreviews dot com.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2013 at 6:18PM
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Hi, Fabaceae_native or Jcutts or anyone in New Mexico (or anywhere else actually) with access to some good types of Ribes aureum. Is there any way to contact you directly? I have a good selection of diverse seeds now of my own collections and cuttings from GRIN of a wide variety of golden currant if anyone is interested in trades or can send seed or cuttings or sucker offshoots. I am especially interested in forms that drop their dried flower remnant and have other good attributes like flavor, size, interesting colors. I am making crosses and trying to come up with some improved forms for garden berries. Thanks.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 6:59PM
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I don't really have anything to offer you. I just was intrigued by the orange fruits I found on a plant. I understand that's a rarer variation. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought they tasted better and because you could see through the skin, they reminded me more of a gooseberry. I don't have access to the plant now. It's 4 hours away!

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 2:12PM
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