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Plant Profile: White Flowering Currant (Ribes indecorum)

Also called white chaparral currant, this deciduous shrub is native to Baha California and coastal areas of California. It is a member of the currant family, Grossulariaceae, that consists of one genus with about 200 species that are currants or gooseberries. The plant grows up to 10′ tall and has a fuzzy, glandular stem with dark brown bark that shreds with maturity. The hairy, medium green leaves are .4-1.6″ long, palmately divided in to 3-5 toothed lobes, and are very aromatic. From late autumn to early spring, short pendulous loose racemes of 10-25 flowers appear. Each flower is tubular with white or pink-tinged sepals surrounding whitish petals. Although the flowers are not showy they are very fragrant and attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. The hairy, sticky, .4″ wide fruit may be orange, purple, pink or red, and provides food for birds and small mammals. White flowering currant is valued for its fragrant fruits, winter bloom time, and tolerance of drought and heat but may drop its leaves when the temperatures are high. The genus name, Ribes, comes from the Arabic or Persian word ribas meaning acid. The specific epithet, indecorum, is the Latin word meaning unsightly.

Type: Deciduous shrub

Outstanding Feature: Flowers’ scent and bloom time

Form: Columnar

Growth Rate: Moderate

Bloom: Loose racemes of 10-25 tubular flowers with white or pink-tinged sepals surrounding whitish petals from late autumn to early spring

Size: 5-10′ H x 1-2′ W

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Sandy, dry to medium moist, well-drained

Hardiness: Zones 5-10

Care: Low maintenance

Pests and Diseases: None of significance

Propagation: Seed

Outstanding Selections: None available

Photo Credit: NPS Wikimedia Commons