Ribes aciculare Sm. Saxifragaceae. NEEDLE-SPINED
The berries are glabrous, yellowish or purplish, sweet and of a
R. alpinum Linn. ALPINE CURRANT.
Europe and northern Asia.
The fruit is sweet and not very acid but is
much less palatable than that of the red currant.
R. ambiguum Maxim.
The fruit is a large, orange-yellow berry nearly half an inch in
diameter. The country people eat these berries.
R. americanum Mill. BLACK CURRANT.
Josselyn says the black currants "are reasonably
pleasant in eating." Emerson says the fruit is black, watery and insipid.
In Nebraska, Thompson says the fruit is large, musky but palatable.
R. aureum Pursh. BUFFALO CURRANT. GOLDEN CURRANT.
Missouri and Columbia Rivers.
This currant was brought by Lewis and
Clark from the Rocky Mountains to our gardens, where it is now very
common and admired for its fragrant, yellow blossoms. In Utah, this
currant is extensively cultivated for its fruit, which is much like the
black currant. Its oval, blue berries are relished, says Downing, by
some persons. Pursh says the berries, red or brown, are of an
exquisitely fine taste and larger than a garden currant. Both black and
yellow varieties of this wild currant occur and are much used by the
Indians of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Texas, Oregon, California and
R. bracteosum Dougl. CALIFORNIAN BLACK CURRANT.
Western North America.
At Sitka, the fruit is eaten.
R. cynosbati Linn. DOG BRAMBLE. PRICKLY GOOSEBERRY.
Northern and western United States.
The fruit is brownish-purple and
R. diacantha Pall. TWO-SPINED GOOSEBERRY.
The berries are about the size of currants, red and of a
R. divaricatum Dougl.
The berry, black, smooth, and spherical, one-third
of an inch in diameter, is pleasant to the taste. The dried fruit furnishes
winter food for the Indians. Lindley says that of all the species which
came under his observation during his journeys in America, this was
the finest in the flavor of its berries as well as in their size, being half an
inch in diameter, sweet and juicy.
R. fragrans Pall. FRAGRANT-FLOWERED GOOSEBERRY.
Siberia and Tartary.
This gooseberry bears red berries that are sweet
and pleasant to the taste.
R. gracile Michx. SLENDER-BRANCHED GOOSEBERRY.
Pursh says the purple or blue berries of this species are
of excellent taste. The berries are glabrous, purple or blue and of
excellent flavor. The fruit has a.rich, subacid, vinous, rather perfumed
flavor, which is extremely agreeable. It is rather too acid to be eaten raw
but when ripe makes delicious tarts.
R. griffithii Hook. f. & Thorns.
Himalayas at heights of 10,000 to 13,000 feet.
The berries are
somewhat austere in taste.
R. grossularia Linn. GOOSEBERRY.
Europe, North Africa and Himalayan region.
The gooseberry is a native
of northern Europe and mountains farther south even to India. This
fruit is not alluded to by writers of the classical period. It is mentioned
by Turner, 1573; and Parkinson, 1629, specifies eight varieties, while
now, in England, where it is a popular fruit, the varieties are
enumerated by the hundreds. In 1882, the Leveller variety with a berry
weighing 818 grains was exhibited in England. On the continent of
Europe, this species is little cultivated, and with us, says Downing,
south of Philadelphia, it succeeds but indifferently. In the eastern
states, on strong soils, when the best sorts are chosen, it thrives
admirably. On account however, of the mildew, the English varieties
have now been almost entirely superceded, by those of American origin.
R. hudsonianum Richards. HUDSON BAY CURRANT.
Northern North America.
At Yukon, this species offers a fruit that is
R. lacustre Poir. SWAMP GOOSEBERRY.
In Utah, the fruit seems to be eaten; in Alaska, the
fruit is poor but is used.
R. magellanicum Poir.
This is a tall shrub with black fruit, which is said by Hooker to
have a very agreeable flavor.
R. menziesii Pursh.
Western North America.
The fruit is utilized by the inhabitants of
southern California in making jams.
R. nigrum Linn. BLACK CURRANT.
Europe and northern Asia.
The black currant is said by Pickering to be
a native of northeastern America, but most authors say of Europe and
Siberia. It is common wild, says Loudon, in woods in Russia and
Siberia. The shrub is cultivated for its fruit, which is valued for jellymaking.
The fruit is sometimes used as dessert, and, in Scotland, the
berries are eaten in puddings and tarts. In Russia and Ireland, they are
put into spirits, as cherries are in England. The leaves, when dried, have
been used as a tea substitute.
R. oxyacanthoides Linn. SMOOTH WILD GOOSEBERRY.
This is the gooseberry probably seen by Smith in
New England in 1609 and mentioned by Edward Winslow among the
wild fruits of Massachusetts in 1621, also by Wood, 1629-33. The fruit
is smooth, small, purple, sweet and pleasant flavored and is much used
by the Indians of Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, California and Utah. To
this species may be referred the gooseberries of American origin, now so
generally cultivated. Houghton's Seedling, one of the first, was
disseminated in 1848 and was exhibited at the Massachusetts
Horticultural Society in 1847.
R. procumbens Pall.
The berries are very grateful to the taste and are rufescent when
R. prostratum L'Herit. FETID CURRANT.
The fruit is black, watery and insipid. It is, however,
eaten in Alaska.
R. rotundifolium Michx. ROUND-LEAVED GOOSEBERRY.
Wood says the purple fruit is delicious. Fuller says it is
smooth and pleasant flavored. In the Flora of North America,s the fruit
is said to be about the size of the black currant, purple in color and
delicious. In Illinois, it is a good deal cultivated for its fruit.
R. rubrum Linn. RED CURRANT.
Northern countries, extending southward along mountain ranges.
While in some regions its fruit is nauseous and unpalatable, in others it
has received commendation for the purposes of a jelly. These contrasts
show the currant to be a plant variable in nature. As a cultivated plant,
it began to receive notice in England towards the close of the sixteenth
century; it is not enumerated in Tusser's list of 1557 but is noticed by
Gerarde in 1597 as appearing in the London markets, but he gives it no
English name and no very particular description. In 1586, however,
Lyte gives the English names as Red Goose-berryes and Bastarde
Corinthes; the word currans appears in Lovell, 1665, and Ray, 1686,
uses our word currants. "Currant plants" were mentioned in the
Memorandum of March 16, 1629, of seeds and plants to be provided
for the New England colonists. The spelling of the word probably did
not become fixed for some time, as Evelyn in his translation of
Quintyne, 1693, yet uses the word currans. Mclntosh says the first
mention of corans, our currant, is by Bacon, who says, "The earliest
fruits are strawberries, gooseberries, corans, etc."
By the herbalists and early writers on horticulture, the first mention of
the currant is by Ruellius, 1536, a French author, who praises it as a
border plant and its fruit as an appetizer. In 1539, Ammonius says "we
cherish it in our gardens," but adds nothing of further interest in this
connection. Fuchsius, 1542, gives a figure which may be called a poor
specimen of the Common Red and which resembles certain seedlings
which are now frequently obtained. Tragus, 1552, gives a figure of the
garden currant, which may well be the Common Red. In 1558,
Matthiolus refers to it as common in gardens and it is also spoken of by
Mizaldus in 1560. Pinaeus, 1561, gives a figure which may be that of a
Common Red, while Lobel, 1576 and 1591, offers figures which are to
be called Common Red, but which are of a far better appearance than
those heretofore figured and mentions also a sweet kind. Lyte's
translation of Dodoens, edition of 1586, speaks of the currant in
England, but translates one name as "beyond the sea" gooseberry. This
same year, 1586, Camerarius figures the Common Red, as does
Dalechamp in 1587. The next year, Camerarius gives directions for
sowing the seed of the wild plant in gardens and says these seedlings
quickly come to fruit. We have hence the first clue as to how new
varieties might originate, if this recommendation was generally followed.
Camerarius also refers to a larger-fruited currant than common that
was growing in the gardens of the Archduke of Austria. This is the first
indication of improvement in varieties, such as might well be
anticipated from the practice of growing seedlings. This Ribes bacci
Rubris majoribus may perhaps be considered as the Red Dutch variety,
or at least its prototype. In 1597, Gerarde, as before stated, scarcely
Recognized the currant as being in general culture in England, but the
next year, or 1598, brings us to what may well be called a picture of the
Red Dutch variety, given in Bauhin's edition of Matthiolus, as also a
mention of a white-fruited variety and another described as sweet.
In these early days the exchange of plants might be expected to be in
their most condensed state, that is as seeds. We have noted the
appearance of a new variety of the currant, and now, as we examine the
Records of the next century, we shall find additional records of improved
varieties just as if the advice of growing seedlings had been followed,
and the better forms gained had been propagated by cuttings.
In 1601, Clusius speaks of a sweet variety found growing wild upon the
Alps and differing not at all, as his figure also shows, from the Common
Red; and of a larger-fruited sort with a red flower, which may not be our
species, yet he believes the variety was grown in the gardens of
Brussels. He also refers to a white-fruited sort, but what this may be is
quite doubtful from the context. In 1613, we have some fine drawings of
the currant in the Hortus Eystettensis representing unmistakably
highly improved forms, and these varieties may well be called the
Common Red, the Red Dutch and the White Dutch. The Large Red is
said to be the same as the large-fruited sort described by Clusius.
Dodonaeus, 1616, figures what may be called the Common Red, as
common in gardens and useful for topiary work. In 1623, Bauhin
names the Common Red, the Sweet-fruited Red, the Red Dutch and the
White Dutch (for so we interpret the types) under Latin names and
synonyms and says, at Florence, he had seen fruit larger than a
hazelnut. J. Bauhin, in his history of plants, published in 1651 but
written long before, for he died in 1613, figures what may be the
Common Red and describes what may be the Red Dutch and the White
Dutch. In 1654, Swertius figures the Common Red and two very fine,
large sorts, which we may call the Red and White Dutch type, yet
somewhat larger. Jonstonus, 1662, figures the Common Red and, as a
compiler, makes mention of the Large Red and White. In 1665, Lovell
speaks of the Red and White in gardens in England. In 1677,
Chabraeus figures the Common Red, ard Pancovius, 1673, what may
be the Red Dutch. Tnrre, 1685, refers to two sorts, the Red and White,
as growing among the hills of Italy, but the latter the more infrequent.
In 1686, Ray describes the three forms, the Common, the Large Red
and the White, while in 1690, Quintyne mentions the Red and White
Dutch by name, and Meager gives directions for growing the White.
In the eighteenth century, we have like mention by botanists of the large
and small forms, both red and white, and come to the use of common
names for varieties. In 1757, Blackwell's Herbarium represents in colors
what may be the Common Red, Common White, and the Red Dutch in
Germany; Salberg and Trenborg, 1763 and 1764, name the Red and
White Currant for Sweden; and Langley, in his Pomona, 1729, speaks
only of Red and White Dutch in England. Mawe's Gardener, 1778,
under Ribes, names for varieties in England, the Common Small Red,
Large Red Dutch, Long-bunched Red, Champagne Pale Red, Common
Small White, Large White Dutch, Yellow Blotched-leaved, Silver-stripedleaved,
Gold-striped-leaved and Gooseberry-leaved.
In 1807, Miller's Dictionary names the Common Red, Common White,
Champagne, White Dutch and Red Dutch. In 1834, Don names sorts as
under English cultivation. Downing describes in the various editions of
his exhaustive work on fruit culture 8 varieties in 1856, 25 varieties in
1866 and 23 varieties in 1885. The Report of the American Pornological
Society for 1883 names as worthy of culture the following:
Angers, Cherry, Fay's Prolific, Knight's Red, Palluau, Prince Albert, Red
Dutch, Red Grape, Versailles, Victoria White Dutch and White Grape, or
12 varieties in all.
The currant fruit has not changed at all in type under culture, but has
furnished variety characteristics in increased size, diminished seed and
improved quality. The wild plant bears currants like those of the
cultivated, but more seedy and fewer on the bunch. Removed to the
garden and placed under protective influences, the plant becomes more
upright and more prolific and the bunches better filled, but the berries
are no larger than those that may be found in the woods. Seedlings in
general present the characters of but a slightly improved wild plant.
Some individuals bear bunches but little, if at all, better than those
borne by selected wild plants, and it is doubtful whether, from the
examination of plants, botanists could determine whether a given plant
was truly wild or but an escape from cultivation. If the testimony of the
herbalists be credited, red, white and sweet currants are found in
nature. Hence we may believe that these natural varieties are the
prototypes of those that occur in gardens, and that horticultural gain
has been only in that expansion which comes from high culture,
protective influence and selection propagated by cutting or division.
The currant reached Massachusetts from England about 1529, and
this would indicate its culture in the British Isles, yet, as before stated,
the currant does not appear in Tusser's list of fruits in 1557, nor in
Turner's Libellus 1538, is scarcely mentioned by Gerarde in 1597, and
in Lyte's English translation of Dodoens is distinguished by the English
names "Red Gooseberries, Beyond-sea Gooseberries, Bastarde
Corinthes and Common ribes." Plat's Garden of Eden, 1653, does not
mention currants, although it purports to give "an accurate description
of all Flowers and Fruits now growing in England," yet Parkinson's
Paradisus, published in 1629, mentions the red and the white sorts.
The French and Dutch names of transmarina or outre mer or over zee
in various combinations indicate that the plant was brought from
beyond their boundaries, while the old French name of ribetts, as given
by Pinaeus, 1561, Cameraius, 1586, and Castor Durante, 1617, seems
derived from the Danish ribs and Swedish resp or risp. In general,
however, the vernacular name in the various countries was founded
upon the generic name of the gooseberry. De Candolle thinks the
currant reached culture from the Danes or the Normans, that is from.
the northern countries, and in this opinion we concur. It seems,
moreover, quite certain that the improved currant originated in the Low
Countries, whence it received distribution where better varieties were
The botanical names and synonyms of the currant are:
This type differs but slightly from the wild form, the bunches being
slightly larger and usually better filled, or in some cases not differing. It
may be considered as the wild form improved by slight selection and
Ribes rubrum. Linn. Sp. 290. 2nd Ed.
Rubra grossula vel transmarina. Ruell. 283. 1536.
Ribes. Ammon. 310. 1539; Fuch. 663. fig. 1542; Chabr. 112. fig. 1677.
Ribes hortense. Trag. 995. 1552.
Ribes officin. Matth. 101. 1558.
Grossula seu grosella rubra vel transmarina. Miz. Secret. 105. 1560.
Ribes vulgaria. Pin. 67. fig. 1561; Cam. Epit. 88. fig. 1586.
Ribes Arabum. Lob. Obs. 615. fig. 1^6; Icon. 2:202. 1591.
Grossulae rubrae, Ribes rubrum. Lyte. Dod. 792. 1586.
Grossularia rubra. 1:131. fig. 1587. Dalechamp.
Ribes vulgare baccis rubris. Cam. Hort. 141. 1588.
Ribes rubra vulgaris. Hart. Eyst. fig. 1613.
Ribesium rubentis baccae. Dod. 748. fig. 1616.
Grossularia multiplici acino, sive non spinosa hortensis rubra, sive
Bibes officinarum. Bauh. C. Pin. 455. 1623.
Ribes vulgaris acidus ruber. Bauh. J. n, ()7. fig. 1651.
Ribes rubra minor. Sweert. t. s3-fig- 2- I654
Ribes officinarium. Jonst. 221. fig. 1662.
Ribes rubra, Turre. 588. 1685. Jonst. 221. fig. 1662.
Ribes vulgaris fructu rubro. Ray Hist. n, 1485. i688.
This type also occurs in our references as a wild form which has been
brought under culture. Ray in his synonyms refers to the Ribes
vulgaris fructu albo, as does Gerarde, 2nd ed., 1630, which is probably
Ribes vulgaris acidur, albas baccas ferens. Bauh, J. n, 98. 1651; Ray
Hist. 11, 1486. 1688.
Ribes alba. Turre, 588. 1685.
This is an improved variety and in its historical references is carried
forward to the Red Dutch.
Ribes baccis rubris majorib. Cam. Hort. 141. 1588.
Ribes vulgaris. Matth. Op. 151. fig. 1598.
Grossularia majore fructu. Clus. Hist. 1:120. i6oi.
Ribes fructu rubro, majore. Hort. Eyst. fig. 1613; Ray Hist. n. 1486.
Grossularis hortensis majore fructu rubro. Bauh. C. Pin. 455. 1623.
Ribes rubra major. Sweert. t. 33. fig. 3. 1654.
Ribes. Pancov. 341.fig. 1674.
Red Dutch. Quint. 143. 1693.
This is an improved form of the Common White.
Ribes .... unionum instar. Matth. Op. i. 32. 152. 1598.
Ribes fructu albo. Hort. Eyst. fig. 1613.
Grossularia hortensis fructu margaritas simili. Bauh. C. Pin. 455.
1623. (excel. Clus.)
Ribes alba. Sweert. t. 33, p. i. 1654.
Grossularia non spinosa, fructu margaritis similis. Jonst. 221. 1662.
White Dutch. Quint. 143. 1693.
The figure of Clusius shows this fruit to be the Common Red in form of
plant and berry. Sweet-fruited currants, or currants not as acid as
other sorts, are known among our modern varieties, and Ray in his
Synopsis, 1724, mentions sweet currants of the common species as in
Lord Ferrer's garden at Stanton, Leicestershire, England, brought from
the neighboring woods.
Ribes .... fructu dulci. Matth. Op. 152, i. 31. 1598.
Ribes vulgaris fructu duke. Clus. Hist. 5, 119, fig. 1601.
Grossularia vulgaris fructu dulci. Bauh. C. Pin. 455. 1623. (exc. Eyst.)
This review of the history of the currant shows that the types of our
cultivated varieties have existed in nature and have been removed to
gardens. We have no evidence that these cultivated varieties have
originated by gradual improvement under cultivation. When we come to
subvarieties, we conclude that these have undoubtedly originated in
gardens, or at least have been disseminated from gardens. The
influence of fertile soil and sunlight upon growth would be to effect a
greater prolificacy and increased size of bunches; through seedlings,
and the process of selection, perhaps continued through successive
generations, these plants which originate larger fruit might have been
preserved and propagated. In the first woodcut, that by Fuchsius in
1542, we have apparently the normal wild currant grown under
protected conditions; in Castor Durante, 1585, a figure which suggests
an improvement over Fuchsius; in 1588, the appearance of the
prototype or the original of the Red Dutch. We may hence say that the
currant received its modern improved form between 1542 and 1588, or
within 46 years. This amelioration of a wild fruit within such a limited
period should serve for encouragement and should emphasize the
belief, warranted also by the study of other fruits and vegetables, that
the seeking of wild prototypes of varieties, and intelligent growing and
selecting seedlings, might give great improvement, even within the
lifetime of the experimenter, in the case of other wild fruits.
To this conclusion our argument leads, yet the fact attained may be
stated more concisely, that, in the currant as in the American grape, the
improved variety came directly through selecting the wild variation and
transferring it to the garden, or from a direct seminal variation from the
seed of the common kind.
R. saxatile Pall. ROCK GOOSEBERRY.
The berries are smooth, globose, dark purple when ripe and
full of edible pulp. The acid fruit, mixed with water, forms a refreshing
R. setosum Lindl. BRISTLY GOOSEBERRY. MISSOURI
The berries are black, spherical and hispid, with a
subacid, pleasant flavor, a little musky.
Ricinus communis Linn. Euphorbiaceae. CASTOR OIL PLANT.
In China, S. Wells Williams says castor oil is used in cooking.
Smith says in his Materia Medica of China that a species or variety of
Ricinus is said to have smooth fruit and to be innocuous.