Currant Events: Berries for the Birds

This time of year you can see the cardinals and robins hopping around my wild black currant (Ribes americanum), helping themselves to the black fruit. I have a corner of my backyard devoted to wild black currant, which is one of my favorite native shrubs. It grows about 3-4′ and is about as carefree as they come, seemingly unbothered even by this year’s drought.

Wild Black Currant fruit

Wild black currant does best in part shade, but is otherwise very adaptable. It bears tart, edible berries over a long period in the summer, which are very popular with the birds. The maple-like foliage is nice and in spring there are long racemes of chartreuse flowers, understated but attractive nonetheless.

Wild Black Currant in April.

I’ve planted a second type of currant more recently, clove currant (Ribes odoratum). This is their second summer since I planted them in the front yard. Clove currant prefers sun. This year one of the three bloomed and bore berries for the first time. The others are still coming along. In spring clove currant has yellow flowers with a powerful clove fragrance. I placed them so that passersby on the sidewalk would notice the scent.

Clove Currant flowers


Clove Currant fruit


14 Comments on “Currant Events: Berries for the Birds

  1. I love clove currant, especially for its fragrance. I haven’t tried wild black currant – I wonder if it would survive here?

    • According to the USDA website, it’s native to Missouri and Nebraska, though not to Kansas. If you’ve got a shady spot you might want to give it a try.

    • I think they do, but I wish they could find another way of showing their affection other than pooping on my lawn furniture.

  2. I’m glad I found your blog! These are beautiful photos and great information. We have four currant bushes in the garden–although I’m not sure they’re native. But the foliage gets interesting in the fall. Very nice post. I noticed on your comment on Wife, Mother, Gardener that you’re dealing with drought, too. It’s so disconcerting, isn’t it?

  3. A very timely topic for me, I’m looking for something to produce berries for the birds mid/late summer that can take our hot dry summers, I tried blueberries but they weren’t happy here. Hopefully I can track down some currant bushes this fall. Thanks for the tip, if your birds love them then I’m sure mine will too!

    • They may be difficult to find at garden centers, but they have them at the on-line native plant nursery Shooting Star Nursery in Kentucky. That’s where I got mine.

  4. Wow, that’s a lot of currants. We have two very mature ornamental redcurrants that look amazing in spring and then boring for the rest of the year. They were planted by the previous owners and sometimes I wish they had put an edible variety in.

  5. My currants aren’t really exciting plants. Most of the year they have nice foliage that provides a nice background for others who are more interesting. A big part of what these currants offer is not a quality of the plant itself but a chance to watch the birds and animals feeding on the berries.

  6. I so agree with you… any plant that excites the wildlife is worth growing. They are the welcome guests of my gardens, Except for the magpies,

  7. Have been planning to add clove currants for some time to my garden and after reading your post I will have to redouble my efforts. I had an instructor at the Chicago Botanic Garden some years ago who raved about them. She planted them right under her kitchen window because of the fragrance.

    • I ordered mine from ForestFarm. They arrive smallish and take a couple years to get some bulk.

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