Red-flowering Currant is a native Northwest shrub with stunning rose-colored flower clusters that mature into purple-black berries.
The berries of the Red-flowering Currant are a native food for both humans and wildlife. They are closely related to the European Red Currant, commonly cultivated for their edible berries in Europe. Indigenous peoples of the region use/used the berries both fresh and dried.
Their taste ranges from bland to sweet, and the texture from mealy to juicy, depending on growing location and sub-species characteristics. Increase their natural sweetness with full sun, rich soils, and sufficient water. Their natural flavor shines when dried into "currant raisins" or made into jams, pies, juices, or syrups. Or, give this treat to the wildlife! The birds love them!
The Red-flowering Currant is a deciduous shrub growing to 7ft tall - perfect for the backyard landscape. The bark is dark brown; the leaves shaped like small maple leaves with a pungent smell; the red flower clusters hang gracefully from branch-ends. Plant-lovers and horticulturists alike have admired these flowers so much that significant breeding efforts have taken place to enhance and diversify flowering characteristics.
It only takes a single glance at a blooming Red-flowering Currant in the Northwest spring forest to know why this is. Amidst the muted grays and greens and browns emerge bursts of bright pink-red in the understory. This shrub is a must have in any native, ornamental, or food-producing garden. It grows well in partial shade under conifer trees like Foothill Pine, or in hedgerows alongside other native berries like Gooseberry, Thimbleberry, or Salmonberry.
Environment and Culture
Red-flowering Currant is at home in sunny forest openings and edges, rocky bluffs, and stream-sides throughout the Pacific Northwest - from sea to mountain tops. They prefer moist humus-rich, well-drained soils, part to full-sun, and can handle drought conditions well.
Our native Currants have been an important ecological food source for both humans and wildlife for millenia. Butterflies, birds, bees, moths, and hummingbirds adore the flower nectar.
Harvest, Care, and Preparation
Red-Flowering Currant doesn’t require any special care, but benefits from annual pruning for shaping and flower/fruit productivity. Keep shrub clear of dead and competing branches, and prune out any limb older than three years (doesn’t produce well after that). For particularly vigorous plants, it may be necessary to prune limbs halfway back in the Winter annually to prevent them from arching onto the ground the following Autumn.
Harvest of fruit is simple and straightforward. They can be used fresh in pies, ice creams, crisps, or cobblers. They can be dried on screens in light shade (protected from birds) to be later added to granolas, cereals, or trailmixes. They can made into jams or jellies for the pantry.