What is a Golden Currant?

Deneatra Harmon

Ribes odoratum, a plant commonly known as the golden currant, tolerates cold-hardy conditions as a rounded shrub. The golden currant grows mostly in widespread areas in a variety of soils. Overall makeup of the golden currant consists of a combination of upright and spreading stems, lobed leaves, and clusters of flowers and fruit. In addition to landscape uses, it provides wildlife habitats, medicine, and food ingredients.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The golden currant shrub comes from the Great Plains region of the U.S. Generally, the seeds and roots of the currant survive in USDA Zones 2 and above, or in cold-hardy conditions where temperatures reach a minimum of -50 to -45° Fahrenheit (or approximately -42.8 to -45.5° Celsius). The currant belongs to the Grossulariaceae plant family of currants and gooseberries, which also includes the European gooseberry, the wax currant, and the Northern black currant. Within the Grossulariaceae family, currants and gooseberries belong to the Ribes genus, consisting of more than 150 varieties of these garden plants. Alternate names for the golden currant include clove currant, Missouri currant, yellow-flowered currant, and Buffalo currant.

Habitats for the Ribes odoratum comprise mostly of open spaces. Stream banks, grasslands, and borders are some of the areas to locate golden currant shrubs. Other prime locations for the plant include thickets, pine forests and spaces with sandy soil conditions.

While the clove currant grows in sandy soil, it also tolerates other types. Well-drained soil is ideal for planting the shrub. Conversely, the plant can tolerate drought during the winter season. The golden currant shrub also withstands saline-quality soil, preferably with a pH between 5.5 and 8. These levels mean that the soil may be acidic to slightly alkaline, generating enough nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for the shrub to grow and thrive.

Seedlings or cuttings of the clove shrub should be planted in an area that gets at least half shade and half sunlight, and they should be spaced at least 4 feet apart (about 1.2 m) to provide some breathing room. On average, the golden currant grows at a rate of 12 to 18 inches yearly (or approximately 30 to 45 cm). Gradually, the plant increases up to 5 feet tall and wide (about 1.5 m). This particular currant displays an upright growth habit with a chestnut brown bark color and spreading stems. It also develops a fine to medium foliage texture from the summer through winter seasons.

Pale green, Buffalo currant leaves usually include three to five lobed margins, or rounded edges. The leaves may look similar to a small hand or foot at first glance. The golden-yellow, five-petaled flowers of the currant bloom by April or May each year. The clove-scented blooms form in clusters of five to 18 flowers per leaf. Following the yellow flowers are edible, rounded purple-black fruit that grows to around 1/2 inch (approximately 1.2 cm).

The yellow-flowered currant works primarily as a border, hedge, or open landscape plant, but it also expands to other commercial uses. The shrub may be part of a windbreak, which is a row of shrubs or trees planted to protect crops as well as conserve energy. In history, the currant has been known to be used by Native Americans to treat sores and inflammation. In modern day, the fruit of the yellow-flowered currant may be used as an ingredient in pie fillings, or in jams and jellies.

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