Ribes alpinum

Tracheophyta MagnoliopsidaGrossulariaceaeRibesRibes alpinum


A dioecious shrub of limestone woods, rocky hedgerows and streamsides, often trailing over small cliffs and steep rocks in shaded places. It is also grown in gardens, and is found naturalised on roadsides, waste land and as a relic of cultivation. Generally lowland, reaching 365 m at Wormhill (Derbys.).



World Distribution

European Boreal-montane element, but absent from the Boreal zonobiome.

Broad Habitats

Light (Ellenberg): 5

Moisture (Ellenberg): 5

Reaction (Ellenberg): 8

Nitrogen (Ellenberg): 6

Salt Tolerance (Ellenberg): 0

January Mean Temperature (Celsius): 2.3

July Mean Temperature (Celsius): 14.2

Annual Precipitation (mm): 1084

Height (cm): 200

Perennation - primary


Life Form - primary


Life Form - secondary

Mega-, meso- and microphanerophyte



Clonality - primary

Little or no vegetative spread

Count of 10km squares in Great Britain: 50

Count of 10km squares in Ireland: 0

Count of 10km squares in the Channel Isles: 0

Atlas Change Index: 0.45

JNCC Designations


Scarce Atlas Account

Scarce Atlas Account: 

Ribes alpinum L.

Mountain currant

Status: scarce


This is an undershrub of steeply sloping ash woodland on Carboniferous or, more rarely, magnesian limestone. Other woody species such as Corylus avellana, Rhamnus cathartica and Taxus baccata may be present at some sites. It can usually be identified from habit alone, forming trailing mats or ‘curtains’ over the edges of vertical rocks and small cliffs and in ravines. At woodland margins and in places more accessible to grazing animals, it loses its trailing habit, forming instead small bushes which may be overlooked. Patches can be very large, and very occasionally it is the dominant species. Aspect seems to be unimportant, most colonies being in the sheltered, damper dale bottoms. Formerly it was extensively planted for ornament and hedging, thus explaining its widespread occurrence as an introduction. Even within its native area, the origins of some populations are unclear as some native sites are near to villages. In Britain, it is not, as its name suggests, a mountain species, but a hill plant. It reaches a maximum altitude of 365 metres at Wormhill.

It is dioecious, both sexes being present in most populations. Fruit production is variable, some native populations providing sufficient currants for jelly to be made. It spreads both by fruit dispersal and vegetatively. There is evidence that native populations are able to colonise new sites through seeds dispersed by birds.

Although sites are well-known to local botanists, they are rarely reported; therefore it is unlikely that the plant has diminished as the map suggests. Where colonisation takes place, seedlings thrive only if both grazing and competition from other shrubs are removed. 

R. alpinum occurs in the mountains of Europe from Scandinavia south to northern Spain and east to Bulgaria. It is also found in the Caucasus and the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.


R. Smith

Atlas text references

Atlas (141b)
Hultén E, Fries M
1986.  Atlas of north European vascular plants north of the Tropic of Cancer. 3 vols.
Jalas & Suominen (1999)
Meusel H, Jäger E, Weinert E
1965.  Vergleichende Chorologie der zentraleuropäischen Flora. Volume 1. 2 vols.
Stewart A, Pearman DA, Preston CD
1994.  Scarce plants in Britain.