Red-flowering currant a bright sign of spring

April 24, 2007 


    Scientific name: Ribes sanguineum
    Where found: Clearings, roadsides, dry woods at low to middle elevations
    Places to look: Maritime Heritage Park in Bellingham, Lily and Lizard lakes trail on Blanchard Mountain

The blooms of red-flowering currant grace western Washington trails this time of the year, a bright reminder that spring is here.

Hummingbirds love the blooms, which can be white but are usually rose-colored and grow in clusters. This shrub has reddish-brown bark and bright green leaves that are paler underneath and covered with a sheen of fine hair. It produces blue-black berries that while edible have been described as tasteless.

Coast Salish people ate them fresh but didn’t collect them for drying because, apparently, they weren’t worth the effort. Birds such as robins and sparrows like to eat the round berries.

Gardeners can plant this shrub, which grows three to nine feet tall, in sun or shade for a splash of color in a woodland garden.

Sources: Local naturalist Rae Edwards; “Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast,” by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon; Washington Native Plant Society

Reach Kie Relyea at kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com or 715-2234.

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