Currant, Black - (Ribes americanum)


Common Name: Currant, Black
Scientific Name: Ribes americanum
Family: Gooseberry (Grossulariaceae)
Other Common Names: Amikomin (Ojibwa name)
Flower Color: Yellow to white
Habitat: Moist woodlands
General Bloom Dates: April - June

General Characteristics:
An upright, small shrub found in moist woodlands. The entire plant can be dotted with small yellow resin droplets. The leaves are maple like with 3 - 5 lobes and double toothed growing from 1/2 to 4 inches in length. The twigs are marked with ridges starting at the bud scars continuing almost the entire length of the stalk. The flowers have 5 white to yellow petals, growing in racemes and drooping from the from the stalk. The berries are dark black when ripe and may contain the yellow resin dots on the skin.
Plant Lore:
Like all currants the Black Currant is high in pectin and can be used to make jam and jellies without adding extra pectin. The Ojibway were known to make jellies from this fruit. They also used a poultice from the root bark to reduce swelling in an injury. Other tribes used this poultice for kidney disorders and as a treatment for worms.

Modern Uses of this Plant::
Jellies and jams made from the fruit is easy to make. Following a simple jam recipie will result in a delicious spread for your morning toast. Black currants are high in Vitamin C as well as potassium, phosphorus, calcium and Vitamin A. The seeds of the Black Currant contain gamma-linolenic, which is extracted and encapsulated for a treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Black Currant juice is an astringent, diuretic and diaphoretic. It is recommended for use with sore throats, burns and fevers. Some homeopathic cough syrups contain currant juice for just that reason.
As a note of concern, the members of the Ribes family are the primary host for the "White Pine Blister Rust" a fungus that can attack and kill a White Pine tree. The fungus begins itŐs life cycle on the currant plant. Once mature the spores will travel in the air to the White Pine. It has been reported that the spores can travel over 100 miles from the host plant, however most trees that will get infected are within 1/2 mile from the host. The White Pine Blister Rust was imported from European nurseries where White Pine seedlings were grown and infected with the rust. These seedlings were then planted in North America and the fungus was able to keep alive because the primary host of Ribes were plentiful. Foresters then began the battle against the currant and gooseberry plants in an effort to eradicate this disease from the forests. In Minnesota there is an effort to find seed stock of the White Pine that is resistant to the Blister Rust. This discovery would benefit both the White Pine, and would also allow for the continuation of the Ribes plants in our forests without concern for the trees.