Ribes is a genus of ca. 150 species, mostly native to cool and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere (some in South America). Numerous species are widely cultivated as ornamentals or for their edible fruits (Tebbitt 1995 lists 71 species). As a result of selection and hybridisation specific limits between several species have become blurred. Moreover, the initial native distribution range of these widely cultivated species is difficult to assess. Nonetheless, three species are generally accepted as native in Belgium (see also Van den Bremt 2006): Ribes nigrum L., R. rubrum L. and R. uva-crispa L. However, all are much cultivated and currently certainly occur in regions where they are not originally native (mostly dispersed by birds or from discarded garden waste).

The genus Ribes is probably poorly known in Belgium. Several closely related or similar non-native species or hybrids might have been overlooked. In fact, plants in cultivation of supposed Ribes rubrum might as well involve hybrids with R. multiflorum Kit., R. petraeum Wulfen or still other species (see also Weber 1992). Such plants possibly are now predominant as escapes whereas the “pure” species might have become rare.

1. Branches thorny. Flowers usually solitary, sometimes up to 3(-4) === 2

1. Branches lacking thorns. Flowers usually in many-flowered racemes (rarely only 3-5-flowered) === 3

2. Ovary glabrous. Berry glabrous, dark reddish to purplish black at maturity, 6-12 mm === 2. Ribes divaricatum

2. Ovary bristly. Berry bristly, greenish at maturity, 10-20 mm (native) === R. uva-crispa

3. Corolla outside bright yellow, bright pink, red or greenish-purple === 4

3. Corolla outside green or greenish-yellow === 6

4. Corolla bright yellow, narrowly tubular. Leaves glaucous, glabrous, odourless === 4. Ribes odoratum

4. Corolla never bright yellow, campanulate. Leaves hairy, never glaucous === 5  

5. Corolla greenish purple. Berry black, glabrous and eglandular. Plant eglandular. Inflorescence relatively few-flowered === 3. Ribes xnidigrolaria

5. Corolla bright pink or red. Berry black with whitish bloom, with some glands. Plant (branches, leaves,…) densely glandular. Inflorescence with numerous flowers === 5. Ribes sanguineum  

6. Lower side of leaves with numerous yellowish, sessile glands, aromatic. Berry black (native) === R. nigrum

6. Lower side of leaves without sessile, aromatic, yellow glands. Berry usually red, never black === 7

7. Dioecious. Leaves usually 3-lobed, less than 50 mm wide with petioles less than 30 mm long. Bracts acute, 4-8 mm long === 1. Ribes alpinum

7. Monoecious. Leaves usually 5-lobed, mostly more than 50 mm wide with petioles more than 30 mm long. Bracts obtuse, 1-2 mm long === 8

8. Anthers distinctly separated by a connective. Hypanthium saucer-shaped. Flowers with a ring around the style base. Lower side of leaves nearly glabrous (usually only hairy on the veins). Leaves deeply cordate at base with more or less rounded lobes (native) === R. rubrum

8. Anthers more or less contiguous, not clearly separated by a connective. Hypanthium cup-shaped. Flowers without a ring around the style base. Lower side of the leaves usually more densely hairy (rarely nearly glabrous). Leaves shallowly cordate at base with more acute lobes === 6. Ribes spicatum


Berger A. (1924) A taxonomic review of Currants and Gooseberries. Techn. Bull. New York St. Agric. Exp. Stat. 109: 1-118.

De Koning J., Van den Broek J.W., Van de Laar H.J. & Fortgens G. (2000) Nederlandse dendrologie (13e druk). H. Veenman & zonen, Ede: 585 p.

Janczewski E. (1907) Monographie des Grosseilers. Ribes L. Mém. Soc. Phys. Hist. Natur. Genève 35: 199-517.

Kirschner J. (1992) Grossulariaceae. In: Hejný S. & Slavík B. (eds.), Kvetena Ceské Republiky, vol. 3. Academia, Praha: 358-371.

Lambinon J., Delvosalle L., Duvigneaud J. (avec coll. Geerinck D., Lebeau J., Schumacker R. & Vannerom H. (2004) Nouvelle Flore de la Belgique, du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, du Nord de la France et des Régions voisines (Ptéridophytes et Spermatophytes). Cinquième édition. Jardin botanique national de Belgique, Meise: CXXX + 1167 p.

Morin N.R. (2009) Ribes. In: Flora of North America Editorial Committee (eds.), Flora of North America, vol. 8. Oxford University Press, New York-Oxford: 9-42.

Press J.R., Mullin J.M. & Short M.J. (1998) Ribes. In: Rich T.C.G. & Jermy A.C. (eds.), Plant crib: 136-138. BSBI, London.

Stace C. (2010) New flora of the British Isles, 3th ed. Cambridge University Press.

Tebbitt M.C. (1995) Ribes. In: Cullen J. & al. (eds.), The European Garden Flora, vol. 4. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 286-294.

Van den Bremt P. (2006) Ribes nigrum, Ribes rubrum and Ribes uva-crispa. In: Van Landuyt W., Hoste I., Vanhecke L., Van den Bremt P., Vercruysse W. & De Beer D., Atlas van de flora van Vlaanderen en het Brussels gewest. Instituut voor Natuur- en Bosonderzoek, Nationale Plantentuin van België en Flo.Wer: 750-753.

Weber H.E. (1992) Zur Klarung der als Ribes rubrum L. und Ribes spicatum Robson bezeichneten Sippen. Flor. Rundbr. 26(1): 1-10.

Weber H.E. (ed.) (1995) Grossulariaceae. In: Illustrierte Flora van Mitteleuropa, vol. 4(2A) (3th ed.). Blackwell Wissenschafts-Verlag, Berlin: 48-68.

Taxonomic name: 
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith