Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council Plants Resource Page

Plant of the Month - Chaparral Currant

Tejon Milk-Aster

Chaparral Currant

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Plant Description

Common Name(s):Chaparral Currant
Scientific Name:Ribes malvaceum
Family:Grossulariaceae
Plant Type:Perennial
Size:1 to 2 Meters
Habitat:Oak Woodland
Blooms:December to April

Ribes malvaceum, commonly called chaparral currant, is a member of the Grossulariaceae (gooseberry family). It is native to California and northern Baja California growing in Chaparral and Oak woodland at elevations ranging from sea level to 1,500 meters. Producing a multitude of flowers that bloom from December to April in our local mountains this plant comes to life and blooms soon after the first rains of Fall.


Chaparral Current is a deciduous plant that when it bloom adds some nice color to a Fall or Winter hike through the Chaparral. Of course this flower does not just bloom for us, this plant helps our pollinators through this time of year by providing a source of nectar. Chaparral Currant is closely related to Fuschia Colored Gooseberries. Sandstone Peak, the Backbone Trail west of Mulholland are great places to see this plant. Pink Chaparral Currant has fragrant flowers with a red and edible currant (in a pinch you might eat the berries). Some people use the leaves in peppermint tea - apparently all you need is one leaf to give the peppermint tea a nice little bit of spice. Indians use the root as part of as part of a remedy for toothache. Leaves are one half to one and a quarter inches in size, green on the top lighter green and hairy below. 3 to 5 lobed; The Rose pink colored flowers grow in clusters of 10 to 25 , each has a slender tube flaring into a flat circle of five lobes. Milt's book says: Flowers: 10-25 rose colored in drooping racemes in hairy bracts 1/4 to 3/8 long. Leaves: alternate, roundish in outline, lighter on top and coarsely downy below..
Origin of name: Calfora Web Site Ribes is derived from the Persian or Arabic word ribas, meaning acid-tasting (presumably a reference to the edible fruits). (CalFlora Plant Name Origins). Malvaceum means mallow "like" and refers to shape of leaves which are similar to Bush Mallow and others (surprisingly [if you are not a gardener or Botanist] this includes Hibiscus.)

Other Similar Plants:
Fuchsia-Flowered Gooseberry Ribes speciosum

Originally featured: February 2015
Last modified: April 01 2017 04:23:52.
References:
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
Images Botanical Terms for Leaves