Ribes indecorum

Common name: White-flowering Currant, White Chaparral Currant

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”. :)


Update 2021-05-31: added berry photo.

Update 2022-02-19: added Etymology section.

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6 thoughts on “Ribes indecorum”

  1. Any idea if these are related in any way to the currants we know from jelly/jam/etc? And do these produce similar berries? I love the range of images here, they help us really get a feel for the plant.

    • Yes, absolutely Todd, that’s the Ribes species (a German/Austrian dialect word for the popular Red Currant is “Ribisln”, quite closely connected to the scientific name as you can see). The berries are one thing that I’ve yet to photograph. I’ve seen them on other Ribes species in San Diego, but not on R. indecorum. Happy to hear that you like the photos!

  2. What a lovely series, showing different aspects of the plant. The last photo reminds me of a Ribes up here that I don’t see often but enjoy when I do see it – R. viscosissimum – it also has little white flowers and similar leaves. Our Red-flowering currant (R. sanguineum) is the star here, being bright pink and blooming very early, like your indecorum. A Belgian blogging friend has that one in a pot on her balcony.
    I love the photo under the oak, with that bark texture and the subdued lighting – just gorgeous. The closeups are beautiful and I’m fond of the tangle as well. It’s always interesting to see these plant portraits. :-)


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