Ribes triste
swamp red currant

Alaska Wildflowers | Other Colors

Ribes triste swamp red currant

Ribes triste
swamp red currant

Common Names

American red currant
gadellier amer
gadellier rouge sauvage
northern red currant
red currant
swamp red currant
wild red currant

Synonyms

Ribes albinervium
Ribes propinquum
Ribes rubrum var. alaskanum
Ribes rubrum var. propinquum
Ribes triste var. albinervium

Subspecies

none

Genus: Ribes
Family: Grossuluariaceae
Order: Saxifragales
taxonomic heirarchy

Etymology

The genus name “Ribes” is believed to have originated from the Arabic word ريباس (rībās or ribas), referring to the acid-tasting properties of rhubarb. This name was applied to currants in Europe due to the similarly tart taste of their berries. However, there is some disagreement about the precise origin of “Ribes,” as some sources suggest it could also derive from the Danish word “ribs,” which means currant.

The species epithet “triste” is Latin for “sad” or “dull,” which might refer to the more subdued coloration of the fruit or perhaps the plant’s habitats, often found in less vibrant, swampy areas that may give a somber impression compared to more brightly colored fruits or more lively habitats.



Duration – Growth Habit

Perennial – Shrub

Identification and Information

Ribes triste, commonly called swamp red currant, is a deciduous perennial shrub in the Grossuluariaceae family (gooseberry) that grows up to 1 meter tall. The stems are ascending to decumbent with straw-colored or purplish-brown bark. The leaves are maple-leaf shaped, alternate, and grow on a 3-6 cm long petiole, 3—or 5-lobed (most commonly 3), with dentate (toothed) margins. They are typically glabrous adaxially (above) and hairy abaxially (below).

The inflorescence is a pendant (drooping) raceme of 6-15 flowers. The flowers are bisexual and fan-shaped with reddish-purple petals about 1 mm long and a saucer-shaped hypanthium (floral cup). The more conspicuous and larger sepals measure approximately 2 mm long, with a reddish-purple or greenish-purple color. The hypanthium is dark reddish-purple, saucer-shaped, and up to 1 mm long. The flowers also feature a prominent, 5-lobed, reddish-purple nectary disc covering the top of the ovary. The stamens are nearly as long as the petals, with linear filaments measuring 0.2-0.5 mm and white anthers. The ovary is glabrous, and the styles are about as long as the stamens.

The fruits are translucent, bright red, egg-shaped, glabrous berries measuring 6–10 mm long.


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Uses

For information only (typically historical) – I take no responsibility for adverse effects from the use of any plant.

Edible Uses

The berries of swamp red currant are sour but edible and often used in traditional and modern recipes. They are a great source of vitamin C and can be eaten fresh or used in jams, jellies, and preserves. Some Indigenous groups have historically mixed berries with other fruits to improve their flavor. The berries can also be dried for later use, providing a valuable food source during winter.

Medicinal Uses

Swamp red currant has several traditional medicinal applications. The berries were sometimes used to treat various ailments. The leaves and roots also found medicinal use:

  • Berries: Consumed as a general health tonic.
  • Leaves: Infused to create teas used for treating colds, coughs, and other respiratory issues.
  • Roots: Used in decoctions for their potential anti-inflammatory properties, treating ailments such as sore throats and mouth sores.

More on uses of the genus Ribes and species R. triste in Alaska’s Wild Plants: A Guide to Alaska’s Edible Harvest (Revised Edition) and the Native American Ethnobotany Database.


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Distribution and Habitat

Map data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), NatureServe Explorer, and Kew

Ribes triste is found in Canada, Alaska, and many northern and northeastern states in the US. In Asia, it is distributed across eastern Siberia, North and South Korea (possibly; sources differ), parts of northeastern China, and Japan.

It lives in wet coniferous and birch forests, bogs, stream banks, alder thickets, and rocky slopes in subalpine zones.

Classification

RankScientific Name (Common Name)
KingdomPlantae (plantes, Planta, Vegetal, plants)
SubkingdomViridiplantae (green plants)
InfrakingdomStreptophyta (land plants)
SuperdivisionEmbryophyta 
DivisionTracheophyta (vascular plants, tracheophytes)
SubdivisionSpermatophytina (spermatophytes, seed plants, phanérogames)
ClassMagnoliopsida 
SuperorderSaxifraganae 
OrderSaxifragales 
FamilyGrossulariaceae (gooseberries)
GenusRibes L. (currant)
SpeciesRibes triste Pall. (swamp red currant, red currant)

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References and Further Reading

Guidebook

Pratt, V. E. (1989). Field Guide to Alaskan Wildflowers: Commonly Seen Along Highways and Byways (p. 77). Alaskakrafts, inc.

Johnson, D., Kershaw, L., & MacKinnon, A. (2020). Plants of the Western Forest: Alaska to Minnesota Boreal and Aspen Parkland (3rd ed., p. 62). Partners Publishing. ISBN 978-1772130591.

Classification, Taxonomy, and Etymology

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=24504#null

Canadensys. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://data.canadensys.net/vascan/taxon/6087?lang=en

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=RITR

Flora of North America. “Ribes.” Accessed June 6, 2024. Flora of North America: Ribes

Southwest Colorado Wildflowers. “Ribes triste.” Accessed June 6, 2024. Southwest Colorado Wildflowers: Ribes triste

Uses

Native American Ethnobotany Database. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from http://naeb.brit.org/uses/species/3397/

Schofield, J. 2020. Alaska’s Wild Plants: A Guide to Alaska’s Edible Harvest (Revised Edition) (pp. 94-95). Alaska Northwest Books.

Map and Distribution

GBIF. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://www.gbif.org/species/2986159

NatureServe Explorer. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://explorer.natureserve.org/Taxon/ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.137978/Ribes_triste

Plants of the World Online. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:221098-2

Description and Information

Flora of North America. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from http://floranorthamerica.org/Ribes_triste

Hultén, E. (1968). Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories: A Manual of the Vascular Plants (1st ed.) (pg. 593). Stanford University Press.

University of Alaska Fairbanks, Alaska Center for Conservation Science. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://ecologicalatlas.uaf.edu/index.php/browse-plant-species/atlas-page/?nps_id=1721

E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia. (2024). Ribes triste. Retrieved June 6, 2024, from https://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Ribes%20triste&redblue=Both&lifeform=4

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