Golden Currant (Aureum)

The Golden Currant (Aureum) is generally described as a perennial shrub. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The Golden Currant (Aureum) has green foliage and inconspicuous yellow flowers, with a moderate amount of conspicuous red fruits or seeds. The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid spring, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Golden Currant (Aureum) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Golden Currant (Aureum) will reach up to 10 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 10 feet.

The Golden Currant (Aureum) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, container, seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Wildlife: Fruits of Ribes species, including the golden currant, are a valuable food source for songbirds, chipmunks, ground squirrels, as well as numerous wildlife species and other animals.

Ethnobotanic: The sweet and flavorful fruits are full of seeds but are popular for making jam, jelly, pie, and even ice cream. Some western Indian tribes used currants (Ribes species) for making pemmican. The Kiowa Indians believed that snakes were afraid of the currant bush and used it as a snakebite remedy. Other tribes have used the fruits to color clay pots. Conservation: The fragrant (clove odor), golden-yellow flowers of spring, yellowish to red fall foliage, edible fruits, and wide ecological range make golden currant a valued ornamental shrub for a variety of natural landscapes. Golden currant is easily cultivated from seed or cuttings.

General Characteristics

General: Currant family (Grossulariaceae). A native shrub 1-3 m tall, spineless, with numerous, erect-arching branches forming an irregular crown up to 6 meters tall or more; bark gray to red-brown; rhizomatous. Leaves deciduous, light green and glossy, alternate or clustered, orbicular or cuneate-ovate with 3-5 rounded lobes, (0.6-)1-2.5(4.7) cm long and wide, cuneate to subcordate at base, glabrous or sometimes lightly hairy beneath. Flowers in short racemes of 5-10(-15), with the fragrance of cloves; long-tubed (from fused sepals) and trumpet-shaped, with 5 yellow sepal lobes spreading at the top, with 5, short, reddish petals inserted at the top of the tube. Fruit a berry 6-10 mm diameter, globose to ellipsoid, ripening from green to yellow to red and finally black to dark purple, with numerous seeds. The common name pertains to the conspicuous, golden flowers; “currant” is the general name for Ribes fruit.

Variation within the species: Ribes odoratum, often considered a distinct species, recognized by its considerably larger flowers, has been placed (re-placed, as var. villosum) as the eastern segment of the broader species.

Var. aureum – (golden currant) Var. gracillimum (Coville & Britt.) Jepson – (golden currant) Var. villosum DC. – (fragrant golden currant, buffalo currant, clove currant) synonym: Ribes odoratum H. Wendl.

Required Growing Conditions

Var. aureum is widespread in the western US and southeastern Canada, with populations in Ontario and perhaps Quebec, as far south in the US as trans-Pecos Texas. Var. gracillimum is endemic to California. Var. villosum in the central US, from western Texas to Montana and eastward to New York and Vermont; it is absent from the Atlantic seaboard. The species is naturalized in Europe from garden escapes. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Golden currant grows in grasslands, coniferous forests and woodlands, and riparian and mountain shrub communities. It occurs on floodplains, along streams, in ravines and washes, by springs, and on mountain slopes, at elevations of about 800–2600 meters. It is generally an early to mid-seral species in western coniferous forests. Var. villosum occurs on cliffs, rocky slopes, ravines, bluffs, open hillside, and thicket margins, often in sandy habitats. Golden currant is somewhat shade tolerant and may grow in open, scattered, and dense pine stands, but it is usually suppressed by a denser canopy.

Flowering (March–)April–June, just after appearance of the leaves; fruiting (May–)June–August.

Cultivation and Care

Plants of Ribes generally begin fruiting after 3 years. Seeds may remain viable in the soil and duff for many years. Germination is enhanced by scarification, but relatively good germination of golden currant seeds was obtained by stratification at -2.2–2.2 degrees C for 60 days without scarification.

Golden currant transplants well and forms suckers. Plants can also be grown from cuttings. It reproduces vegetatively by rhizomes, sprouting after cutting and fire.

General Upkeep and Control

Golden currant can be used to re-vegetate roadsides and disturbed areas such as mine spoils and rangeland. It is rated mostly good in initial establishment, growth rate. persistence, germination, seed production, ease of planting, and natural spread. It tolerates shearing and may be used on dry, exposed sites in a range of soil types, and it is a good soil stabilizer.

Golden currant is an alternate host for white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola); this and other species of Ribes have been targets of various eradication efforts where white pine is of commercial interest. Please check the PLANTS Profile for this plant for links to additional information.

Fire top-kills golden currant, but it can survive low- to moderate-severity fire by sprouting from rhizomes. Such fires also scarify soil-stored seed and enhance germination. Severe fire probably kills golden currant and may destroy soil-stored seeds.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Shrub
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Spring
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intermediate
Height When Mature 10
Vegetative Spread Rapid
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness Yes
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Container, Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Resprout Ability Yes
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6–8 pH
Precipitation Range 12–12 inches/yr
Planting Density 700–1700 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA