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American black currant is a thornless, erect native shrub with showy yellow flowers in early spring followed by edible black berries in mid-summer. It is an excellent choice for moist, shady sites.

This species is native to the Chicago region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. 

  • Family (English) Gooseberry
  • Family (botanic) Grossulariaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Chicago area, Illinois, North America
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet)
  • Mature height 3 to 5 feet high
  • Mature width 3 to 5 fee wide
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 3, Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago)
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, clay soil, Occasional flooding, Wet sites
  • Season of interest early winter, mid spring, midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Arching, Multi-stemmed, Round, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast
  • Has cultivars No

Native geographic location and habitat:

American black currant occurs in moist woods and floodplains of the upper Midwest.

Attracts birds & butterflies:

Fruits are eaten by many birds and other wildlife.

Bark color and texture:

Older stems develop ridges from leaf scars. Twigs are pale brown with golden colored glands.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Alternate, 2 1/2 inch long leaves have three to five lobes. Leaf margins are single to double toothed. The medium green upper surface has resin dots, while the lower surface has hairy veins with golden resin dots.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Bright yellow-green flowers hang in 2 to 3 inch clusters in early to mid-spring.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

A  short-lived, dark purple, 1/4-inch berry ripens in mid-summer and hangs in chain-like clusters along the stem. 

Plant care: 

Plant American black currants in full sun to part shade for best fruit production. Plants become spindly in too much shade. Best in moist soil. Plants will show signs of stress in dry, hot sites.

Disease, pests, and problems: 

American black currant is susceptible to leaf spots, rust, and cane blights.  It is tolerant of black walnut toxicity.


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