Wildflowers, Plants and Ferns, Pacific Northwest
The Red Flowering Currant Bush is a member of the gooseberry family. It grows in the form of a medium to tall shrub from 1 to 3 m tall. Crooked, brownish stems stand erect or lean against other shrubs in open to dense thickets. Grey to green leaves cluster on short branches arranged along the twiggy stems. Each leaf is shaped like a small, rounded maple leaf with three to five lobes and its underside is covered in fine matted hair.
The Red flowering currant inhabits the drier portions of the south coast of British Columbia and also lurks in scattered localities in the interior of the province. It grows all over Vancouver Island and I must say, it is one of my most favorite flowering shrubs in my area of Campbell River. Its distribution extends southward along the coast into northern California.
This low elevation species pops up here and there in dry open forest and forest clearings. Logged areas and roadsides are a favorite haunt, and on occasion you may even see it growing on our local bluffs and cliffs.
The beautiful Red Flowers are a great attraction for people but butterflies, Hummingbirds and bees utilize it also.
The plant blooms from March to May, depending on the location with masses of pale to bright pink blooms that droop in luscious bunches at the tips of the branches.
Each flower consists of a short tube, at the mouth of which five pale to deep pink sepals and five spoon shaped petals flare outward. Five yellow stamens crowd the opening of the floral tube, deep inside of which is hidden a two-branched style and a glistening drop of nectar. By summer, blackish berries covered in a grey blue bloom replace the flowers.
The taste of these berries varies according to the individual tastes. Some describe it as bitter, others as bland and boring, yet others find it sweet and tasty.
Despite the berries variable tastes the First peoples thought of the red flowering currant mainly as a food plant. The Coast Salish peoples collected and ate the fruit raw, while in the Fraser Canyon, the Thompson peoples dried and stored the berries for eating later in the year.