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California natives part 2- Ribes sp.

One of my favorite native flowering three season plant is Ribes or Gooseberry.  You may have read my post on White Blister Rust on our native white bark pines.  Ribes are a host for this European fungus.  Large scale attempts to eradicate western Ribes sp. in the early 20th century was the method of control, but luckily it failed.

Ribes sp. are very beautiful and diverse.  In general the berries are edible, although some species are better tasting than others.  Gooseberry fruits were extensively used by Native Americans.

There are three species of Ribes native to California that I use all the time.  The first is Ribes sanguineum.  There are many varieties out on the market, with colors ranging fro white to pink to red.  R. sanguineum needs a bit of water in the summer and does better in either a cool sunny location or, in hot areas, a little shade in the hottest time of the day.  Flowers in the spring, berries in the fall that the birds love, and beautiful fall color makes this plant have 3 season interest.  A shrub, it grows anywhere from 6′ to 10′, depending usually on the amount of water and the site.  Prune it after flowering.

When correctly sited, this plant is very tough and easy to grow.  One of my favorites in the garden.

Another Ribes rarely used is Ribes speciosum.  This unusual California native flowers in the dead of winter and goes dormant (leafless) in the summer, making it perfect for planting under oaks.  It likes shade or cool sun.  You can keep it green all year by watering it in the summer, but why bother.  One note is that it does have thorns so keep it away from walkways.  Many of my clients say this is one of their favorite plants because it flowers in the winter when there is little color.

Lastly is a Ribes that forms colonies and blooms yellow.

Ribes aureum is from the foothills of California.  It tends to sucker and form thickets, when happy.  It does best in shade with moderate water in the summer.

There are several other more obscure Ribes on the market, but these three are my favorites and all are reliable and attractive.  These are very easy native additions to your dry garden.

One Response

  1. […] information about Ribes in this article:  Currants and Gooseberries Native to California and this one and this one and….. oh, you can google the rest for […]


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