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Golden Currant

Scientific Name:
Ribes aureum
Family:
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: poho'nobi (Kelly 1932); pokopisa (Kelly 1932); boko'pe (Kelly 1932); pogopisha (Fowler 1989); huvui (Fowler 1989); bo-gumbe (Train et al. 1957:86); pih-oh-bis (Train et al. 1957:86)
  2. Pit River: pí'sudir (Garth 1953)
  3. Klamath: Chōms'-käm (Coville 1897)
Description:

Plant

Ribes aureum is a shrub that grows up to 3 m tall. Three to five-lobed leaves are clustered at the ends of short branches. The plant produces yellow flowers that age to orange. Summer fruits are juicy, and range in color from orange to red, sometimes appearing nearly black. Fruits are 6 to 8 mm in diameter and contain numerous seeds. When fresh, fruits are globose to ellipsoid with remnant dried petals often remaining at the distal end. Ribes aureum seeds are small and brown, elongated obovate to reniform in shape, and range in size from 1 to 3 millimeters. This species blooms from April to May.

Identification Tips

Ribes aureum is thornless, with reddish flowers. The common name 'golden currant' refers to the conspicuous, long-tubed red-gold flowers. Ribes cereum is also thornless, but flowers are light pink.

Starch granules

Starches from fruit and seeds are very infrequent. Small, irregular spherical in shape with rough margins. Some granules appearing with central vacuoles at hilum. Crosses bright with arms bending in C shape, often unconnected at hilum. Grains with vacuoles have square-shaped center of crosses. Sizes range from 2.5-5 microns.

Habitat:

Ribes aureum grow at elevations up to 3075 m in a variety of habitats including slope bottoms, along creeks, and in sagebrush, woodland and pine communities. 

Distribution:

This species grows throughout much of the United States except for in the southeastern and a few northeastern states. 

Ethnography:

Ribes aureum is utilized by many Native groups, the fruits can be eaten raw, dried or ground with seeds for mush. The fruits can be used for dye and the wood can be used for arrows or to make dice for games. It can also be used to cure sores and swelling.

As food

Northern Paiute: "[In regards to mid-July] Fruit collected at this time included squaw currant, golden currant, hawthorn ("blackberries"), and rose hips.  Mule's ears and balsamroot were among the first seeds to ripen, with tumbling mustard (an introduced plant) ripening later." (Couture et al. 1986:153-154)

Northern Paiute: "[In regards to the berries of pogopisha (golden currants, Ribes aureum)] The berries of pogopisha were dried, ground on the metate and mixed with seed flour for mush." (Fowler 1989:50)

Northern Paiute: "[In regards to the berries of pogopisha (golden currants, Ribes aureum)] Wild currants (huvui) grow along the mountains.  People break bunches off by hand.  They are eaten fresh or dried." (Fowler 1989:50)

Pit River: "Huckleberries (an·anyats), gooseberries (loklopi or pópupi), currants (pí'sudir), buckthorn berries (yuhaiup) (Rhamnus rubra), hEstĭkida (rolled between two rocks to take the spines off) (Ribes roezlii) were all berries which were gathered and eaten while fresh." (Garth 1953:139)

Klamath: "Chōms'-käm.- The yellow-flowered currant common along streams.  The sharply acid berries, chōm'-chäk, which vary in color at maturity from yellow to red or even purplish, are used for food." (Coville 1897:97)

As medicine

Northern Paiute: "Most of the data indicated that the inner bark is dried, pulverized, and applied as a powder to cure sores…but there was one report of its being made into tea to be taken for leg swellings." (Train et al. 1957:86)

Other

Northern Paiute: "[In regards to basketry] Coloring may be produced in a variety of ways; the most frequent seems to be by burying the willow in damp earth.  Lizzie stated that sometimes the strands were colored by being soaked with willow bark; sometimes they were steeped in crushed ripe currants." (Kelly 1932:121)

Northern Paiute: "Arrows were of rose (tsia'bi), currant (poho'nobi), service (wükwü'kobü), tüa'bi, and possibly of young cat-tail (toibü)." (Kelly 1932:143)

 

Distribution Map: