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Wax currant

Scientific Name:
Ribes cereum
Family:
Native Name(s):
  1. Northern Paiute: atsa'pui (Kelly 1932); atsapui (Couture et al. 1986)
  2. Pit River: pí'sudir (Garth 1953)
  3. Klamath: Chmâr'-läk (Coville 1897)
Description:

Plant

Ribes cereum is a shrub that grows up to 1.5 m tall. Three to five-lobed leaves are clustered at the ends of short branches. The plant produces white to pink flowers. Summer fruits are juicy, red and may appear fuzzy. Fruits are 6 to 7 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 cereum seeds are small and cream-to-orange colored,  elongated obovate to reniform in shape, and range in size from 1 to 3 millimeters. This species blooms from June to July.

Identification Tips

Ribes cereum is thornless,with flight pink flowers and fruits that may appear fuzzy. Ribes aureum is also thornless, but has long-tubed red-gold flowers. 

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:

This species grows at elevations between 875 to 2365 m in dry montane to alpine slopes among rocks and forest edges.

Distribution:

Ribes cereum grows across the western United States.

Ethnography:

Ribes cereum is utilized by many Native groups, the fruits are consumed raw. The fruits can be used for dye and the wood can be used for arrows or to make dice for games.

As food

Northern Paiute: "Mogu'tsiabui (gooseberry; mogu', thorn), boko'pe (wild currant), and atsa'pui (Ribes cereum Dougl.) were eaten fresh and uncooked.  Before gathering atsa'pui, a person had always to throw a handful of dust on the bush, otherwise he would surely have a headache.  Dust was also thrown on a berry bush to prevent birds from eating the fruits." (Kelly 1932:100)

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)

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)

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: "[In regards to basket dice] It seems, however, to have been played with eight dice of wild currant wood, about two inches in length." (Kelly 1932:176)

Klamath: "Tsäl, or shäl.- The stems are used to make arrow shafts for hunting small game, such as waterfowl.  The rod-like tips of such arrows are made of currant wood, probably Ribes cereum." (Coville 1897:91-92)

 

Distribution Map: