Wax Currant
Ribes cereum Dougl.
Family: Grossulariaceae, Currant
Genus: Ribes
Synonyms:
Other names: squaw currant
Nomenclature: cereum = wax like (branches)
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Edible plant
Medicinal plant
Description

General: spreading or rounded to erect shrub, without spines, 0.5-1.5 m tall, the new branches finely short-hairy and often sparsely to copiously covered with short-stalked glands, turning grayish-brown or reddish-brown.

Leaves: alternate, mostly broadly fan-shaped, from quite hairless to downy and often copiously stalked-glandular on both surfaces, usually 1.5-2.5 cm broad and commonly shallowly 3- or 5-lobed and closely blunt-toothed.

Flowers: about 2-8 in clusters on short stalks, the entire cluster usually both finely short-hairy and sticky with short-stalked glands. Flower stalks shorter than the bracts. The calyx greenish-white to pink-tinged, from nearly hairless to short-hairy as well as stalked-glandular, nearly cylindric, 6-8 mm long, the 5 lobes spreading-bent back, 1.5-3 mm long. The 5 petals 1-2 mm long, equaling to considerably exceeding the 5 stamens. Anthers 0.7-1.5 mm long, oval, tipped with a small cup-shaped gland. Styles sometimes joined nearly or quite to the stigmas. April-June.

Fruits: berries, ovoid, 6-8 mm long, sparingly glandular, dull to bright red, unpalatable.


Distribution

Woods, thickets, rocky areas, from sagebrush areas to subalpine ridges, in most parts of MT. Also from B.C. through OR and southward to s. CA, NE, CO, NM and AZ.
var. pedicellare:
Edible Uses

The fruit of wax currant is edible raw or cooked, but it doesn't taste good and large quantities can cause nausea. Reports on the quality of the fruit range from insipid and rubbery to highly esteemed as an article of diet. The fruit can also be used to make pemmican, jellies, jams, sauces and pies. Fruits can also be dried for later use. They were used for food by several Indian tribes. Young leaves are edible too. The flowers are edible raw and have a sweet flavor.



Medicinal Uses

The plant was used medicinally by the Okanagan-Colville, Shoshoni and Thompson Indians. An infusion of the inner bark has been used as a wash for sore eyes. The fruit has been eaten in quantity to induce vomiting. It has also been used to treat diarrhea.



Sub taxa:

var. cereum Dougl.:
Bracts of the flowers usually more or less fan-shaped, broadly rounded and several-lobed or very prominently toothed. Leaves from hairless to copiously short-hairy and more or less glandular on both surfaces. From B.C. s. to AZ and s. CA, e. to c. MT and ID and w. NV, almost entirely replaced eastward by var. pedicellare with which it is freely intergradient.

var. pedicellare Brewer & S. Wats. (= var. inebrians):
Bracts ovate to obovate, usually pointed, entire to sharply small-toothed or with 2 or 3 shallow lobes. Plants, especially the leaves, mostly strongly short-hairy. Leaves mostly less than 15-20 mm broad. From c. ID to c. MT (Fergus Co.) and e. and s. (to the exclusion of var. cereum) to NE, NM, UT, and e. NV.

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