Tuesday, August 16, 2016

One out of three

I drove 40 kilometres to wipe the wax off a berry.

Sticky currant, Ribes viscosissimum. UPDATE Red-flowered currant, Ribes sanguineum

I had found several of these shrubs at Oyster Bay, and they looked like currants or gooseberries to me, even if they were the "wrong" colour, and had no spines. I came home and looked them up; the only currant without spines was the Sticky. But the berries are a deep bluish-black.

Not black, even in the shade. Black specks all over, but that's all.

I looked at all the small berries in my guide and on E-Flora, and kept coming back to the stickies. But the colour was still wrong. I had been mistaken about another plant from here, (more about that later) so I wanted to be more careful this time.

Pale blue berry. With black hairs.

Then I read in PNWWildflowers that the fruits are covered in a bluish wax. So I drove back to Oyster Bay and wiped the wax off a berry. And, sho 'nuff, they're bluish black underneath.

Next question; what do they taste like? I tried one. It was mildly sweet, a bit seedy. Palatable, but nothing to drive 40 km. for.

Then I looked at my guide. "Not edible," it says. Wikipedia goes further:

The fruit is a blue-black berry a centimeter (0.4 inch) long or longer. It is said to cause violent vomiting shortly after ingestion.

I ate another berry today. I'm still fine.

Red-flowered currant leaf. 

The leaves of the stickies are supposed to have a chemical odour on hot days. I pinched one, and smelled nothing more than green and drying leaf, but this was in the cool of the late afternoon.

The map is never the terrain.

Update: I've been sent to look at the red-flowered currant, and it turns out that it is also unarmed (no spines), has the same waxy, polka-dot berries, and is more suited to this terrain. Wikipedia has photos of the berries, and they're strongly purplish blue, but on E-Flora, they're waxy and pale. So red-flowered it is.

The red-flowered currant is supposed to be unpalatable, according to my guide, but a friend on Facebook just made jam with them, blackberries and Oregon grape berries, using, as she says, a lot of sugar.

And here's the map, again.


  1. You go to all lengths to get your pictures and identifications. - Margy

  2. I used to use the somewhat dangerous mental shortcut that blue berries were edible. I might need to revise that shortcut, but not today, because you survived!

  3. My mental shortcut is that tiny amounts shouldn't make me too sick. Probably needs revision, too.


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