Plant Species of the Bright Angel Trail: Wax Currant, Ribes cereum

See Plant Guide to Bright Angel Trail for an introduction to this page.


Identification status: The species is determined with high confidence, but the variety remains to be determined.

From the McDougall key, there is only one other currant species at the Grand Canyon, Ribes viscosissimum, which has deeply lobed leaves usually wider than 2 inches (4 cm), and fruit that is black at maturity. R. cereum has shallowly lobed leaves usually much less than 2 inches (4 cm) wide, and fruit that is red at maturity. I measured the leaves as being typically 1.9 cm wide, the leaves are shallowly lobed, and the fruit is red at maturity, making the determination R. cereum with high confidence.

There are two varieties of Ribes cereum: var. cereum and var. pedicellare (=R. inebrians). They are distinguished by the shapes of the bracts of the flowers, which were not available for examination in September.

From a SEINet search, there are 34 vouchers of this species from the Coconino County portion of the Grand Canyon, including two from elevation of 5000 and 5700 feet on this trail, and another from Under Canyon Rim near Grand Canyon (town). All of those vouchers are determined only to the species, which may imply these are var. cereum. Note that there may be additional vouchers at other herbaria not available through SEINet.

There is only a single voucher of var. pedicellare, as R. inebrians, with a location just specified as Grand Canyon. The 1987 Grand Canyon Flora reports a nearby location in the vicinity of Grandview, South Rim.

Due to the much larger number of probable var. cereum vouchers, I've tentatively put down that variety in the plant guide, but with a ssp on that determination indicating that the variety needs to be confirmed in the future.

First occurrence on Bright Angel Trail: mile 0.00, elevation 6845 feet (2086 m).

Number of plants along Trail: at least 40 plants were found in at least 9 different locations in September 2007. This is a very common species on the trail.


Pictures of the first plant on the trail, a straggly little plant just below the trail, in the left of the picture, next to the first gooseberry on the trail in the right of the picture, from 5 September 2007, mile 0.00:

The following picture shows the same plant, with a different view to expose the rest of the plant that was in the shade. The stem seen in the first picture is now overexposed.

From just a bit farther along the trail, on the right, hanging from the cliff at about eye level:

From just below the Kolb Studio:


See Resources for Grand Canyon Flora for further information on most of these references. Entries in the second column are either the name used in that source or a page reference. The name is linked to online pages when available. If a given reference does not contain this taxon, the entry is either left blank or contains a hyphen.

Scientific NameRibes cereum var. cereum
1987 Grand Canyon Flora NameRibes cereum
1987 Grand Canyon Flora page56
SEINet Image PageRibes cereum
USDA PlantsRibes cereum var. cereum
Flora of North America
Jepson Manual for California treatmentRibes cereum var. cereum
Jepson Manual illustration page681
Kearney and Peebles NameRibes cereum
Kearney and Peebles Page #370
Vascular Plants of AZ name
Vascular Plants of AZ volume: page
Huisinga et al 2006 name-
Huisinga et al 2006 page numbers-
Epple NameRibes cereum
Epple description page #87
Epple pix #823
McDougall 1964 nameRibes cereum
McDougall 1964 page #109
Brian 2000 Name
Phillips 1979 nameRibes cereum
Phillips 1979 page #96
Stockert 1967 name-
Stockert 1967 page #-

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Copyright © 2007 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Last Update: 24 September 2007