The delicate Ribes indecorum (common names White-flowering Currant, White Chaparral Currant, Whiteflower Currant) is one of the first harbingers of spring in the chaparral and sage scrub. It quite reliably blooms soon after the first winter rains arrive and when temperatures drop.
It likes shade. I’ve seen it growing below a cliff of a north-facing slope, under an oak canopy in riparian woodland or, at the eastern part of Los Peñasquitos Canyon in San Diego County, even using the shade of a freeway overpass. :)
The racemes with 10-25 delicate white flowers have sepals that quickly begin to droop a little, and reveal very small and short petals. Like other shrubs in the chaparral and sage scrub, it is deciduous and past spring, barely recognizable because it drops all of its leaves.
According to what I could find online, the genus Ribes was mistakenly named using the Arabic for rhubarb, instead of currants. Well, mistakes happen! :P Another source says that it comes from the Persian word for sour-tasting.
The species epithet indecorum, unattractive, is almost cruel, in my opinion: among the first flowering plants of the wet season and with its pretty little white flowers, I find Ribes indecorum a very attractive plant! But perhaps, it is just “indecorum” when compared to Ribes speciosum, which also grows in San Diego County: its twigs are very “decorated” with spines large and small, and it has very, very showy red flowers. Compared to that, the White-flowering Currant is certainly “less decorated”. :)
- Jepson eFlora taxon page for Ribes indecorum
- CalFlora taxon report for Ribes indecorum
- WikiPedia page for Ribes indecorum
Update 2021-05-31: added berry photo.
Update 2022-02-19: added Etymology section.