The Golden Currant shrub can be seen growing in the wild and also can be grown in landscapes as an individual shrub or with several as a hedge. These shrubs can grow up to 9 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet across, growing best along streams and in open woods.
A quick way to identify them is that the leaves of this shrub are shaped like the palm of a hand (“palmate”), with 3 lobes. Currants also have no thorny spines along the branches.
In the spring, they can also be spotted from a distance by the small golden flowers, which smell like cloves on warm days.
Scientific Name and Plant Family Information
The Scientific name is Ribes aureum. Ribes is said to be from “ribs” which was the 1700’s Danish word for red currant. Aureum comes from the Latin word for gold, aurum, referring to the color of the flowers.
It is in the plant family Grossulariaceae (Gooseberry), which consists only of gooseberries and currants.
Plants in this family are shrubs and have leaves that are known as “palmate”, looking like the palm of an open hand and resembling maple leaves. Berries of all of these shrubs are edible.
The easiest way to tell a gooseberry shrub from a currant shrub is that the gooseberry shrubs have long thorns, referred to as spines, while the currants are not “armed” with thorns.
Through the Seasons
In the spring, Golden Currant shrubs first leaf out with green leaves and then the flowers follow. They have yellow tubular flowers with red centers in the spring to early summer (April to June).
The round berries are about 1/4 to 1/3 inch in diameter, and ripen from green/yellow to red and then black/dark purple. In the fall, the leaves turn bright red.
Native or Non-Native?
Golden Currant is native to this area and grows in the plains, along streams and ditches, and also along roadsides. It can be found throughout much of Colorado at elevations from 3,500 to 8,000 feet.
Where to find in Willow Spring Open Space
This Golden Currant bush is just off the trail on the East side of Willow Spring Open Space about 300 feet South of the edge of the Homestead Elementary School property. It grows along the edge of the cattails in the creekside riparian zone.
Did You Know?
The Golden Current bush provides food for animals, birds, insects and people. The flowers provide nectar for the earliest hummingbirds along with butterflies and bees. Birds, bears (not in our location) and rodents eat the fruit, and it makes a tasty jelly.
- Botany in a Day: The Patterns Method of Plant Identification, by Thomas J. Elpel, 1967
- Flora of Colorado, by Jennifer Ackerfield, 2015
- Colorado Flora, Eastern Slope, A Field Guide to the Vascular Plants, Fourth Edition, by William A. Weber and Ronald C. Wittmann, 2012
- Colorado Native Plant Database Data Portal, Colorado State University
- Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountain Region, Denver Botanic Gardens, 2018