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Plant of the Month   ~~   FEBRUARY 2007

updated on or about the 1st of each month


  • Common Name(s): Chaparral Currant
  • Scientific Name: Ribes malvaceum
  • Family: Saxifragaceae, Saxifrage family (or sometimes Grossulariaceae, Gooseberry family)
  • Plant Type: Deciduous shrub
  • Size: Bush or shrub up to 6 feet tall
  • Common Habitat: slopes, canyons, woodlands, chaparral, up to 2500 feet in elevation, being quite common

Chaparral currant is an attractive shrub that blooms in winter and early spring in our local mountains. Its leaves form on reddish-colored stems, are fuzzy-looking, about 1-2 inches in diameter with 3-5 lobes. The leaves drop in summer and bud in fall. Rosy-pink flowers form from October to March. They gather in drooping clusters up to 6 inches long and containing as many as 25 individual flowers. The berries which follow are 1/4 inch diameter, dark purple to black in color, with a waxy, powder-like coating. The fruit is not flavorful. Native Americans used the roots of Chaparral currant for toothache.

The species name of malveceum means mallow-like, on account of the leaf shape being similar to that of bush mallow or Malocothamnus fasciculatus. Another variation of currant in our area, White Chaparral Currant or Ribes indecorum, has white flowers and slightly smaller leaves but otherwise looks the same.

Contributed by Liz Baumann

Curious what was featured in past Plants of the Month? Search the Archives.

Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains, by Milt McAuley
Flowering Plants: The Santa Monica Mountains, Coastal and Chaparral Regions of Southern California, by Nancy Dale
Roadside Plants of Southern California, by Thomas J. Belzer
California Native Plants for the Garden, by Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O'Brien
California Herbal Remedies, by LoLo Westrich

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