Updated: Apr 30, 2021
In this installment of Nature in your Neighborhood, we look closer at a small pink flower and its role within the ecosystem with a small discussion about pollinators.
The Pink Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum) is a flowering plant native to the Pacific Coast found from California all the way up to B.C. Canada. The currant is deciduous and loses its leaves during the summer due to lack of water, leaving their flowers and berries present. There are a couple variants of Ribes sanguineum with one variant being native to Northern California near the Oregon border and has a deeper colored red flower and the other variant has a pink flower. Sanguineum grows on shrubs up to 6 feet tall with scalloped leaves and small pink and white flowers organized in a cluster with each flower being half an inch in size at full bloom. The plant is drought tolerant making it suited well to the climate. The berries that follow these flowers are dark in color and tart, making them more ideal for wildlife, but Native Americans have eaten these berries as well.
The flowers bloom in winter and spring with the flowers lasting around a week. Even with this short flowering cycle, these flowers attract pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds with the subsequent berries attracting birds. Its leaves are home to Silk moth larvae who eat the leaves to grow. These flowers produce small amounts of nectar, but research shows that the sugar content in the flowering currant is higher but has low amounts of pollen per flower, yet still attracts pollinators.
Given this, what ecological importance does the pink flowering currant have? There are not any species that must have it present to survive and pollination is not limited to certain pollinators. Its importance is more general, as pink flowering currant is considered a foraging plant for pollinators.
Forage plants can be thought of as the staple food of pollinators, providing nectar and pollen for energy, sitting in the same role as grains in our own diets. Nectar is the main source of sugar for pollinators, similar to how grains, like wheat and rice, are our main sources of sugar. While we may not notice the effects of grain in our diet, not having enough will make a difference. The same can be said about pollinators where a lack of forage plants can lead to starvation in bee populations. Like people need a balanced diet to stay healthy, pollinators like bees and hummingbirds need a variety of flowers to collect pollen and nectar from to be healthy. So other than looking pretty, Ribes sanguineum feeds pollinators in the area with nectar and pollen.