The photo above shows the flowers and leaves of wax currant (var. cereum) as seen at Hog Lake, a BLM site east of Sprague, WA.........April 27, 2006.
Wax currant is a stiff and many-branched shrub with spreading to rounded growth from 0.5-1.5 meters high. The stems are unarmed and range from gray to reddish brown in color. The leaves alternate on the stems and are deciduous. The leave are small, ranging from 1.5-2.5 cm wide. The blades are kidney-shaped and have 3-5 indistinct lobes as well as toothed margins. The upper surface of the blade is waxy, and its species name of "cereum" means waxy.
The numerous, tiny flowers hang in small racemes of 2-8 flowers from the branches. The calyx is greenish-white, white, or pinkish-tinged and non-hairy to thickly haired and glandular. The flower is cylindrical (6-8 mm long) with the 5 lobes deltoid-ovate in shape, 1.5-3 mm long, and spreading to recurved. The petals are spatulate-obovate in shape and 1-2 mm long. The fruit is ovoid in shape and 6-8 mm long, slightly glandular, and dull to bright red.
Wax currant is found on warm, dry soils from the sagebrush desert to the edges of arid forests, and well up to subalpine ridges.
Wax currant may be found from British Columbia south along the eastern slopes of the Cascades to southern California, and east to Montana, Nebraska, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The berries are edible but best used in jellies. The leaves are only modestly palatable. It is an attractive shrub for the arid woodland garden, and its berries are especially attractive.
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Wax currant with developing fruits as seen along one of the loop trails at the south side of Field Springs State Park, Asotin County, Washington.........June 11, 2013. Note the fan shaped inflorescence bracts which are toothed or several -lobed which helps separate this from var. colubrinum.
-Wax currant blooming at Big Creek Campground, Malheur National Forest...........May 29, 2014.
Ripe berries of wax currant as seen on prehistoric Bretz flood sand deposits at the eastern base of Steamboat Rock, Steamboat Rock State Park......June 1, 2013.
Wax currant blooming on a bald about two and one-half miles uphill from the trailhead along the Canyon Mountain Trail, Strawbery Mountain Wilderness..........May 29, 2014.
-Wax currant blooming in Summit Prairie, Malheur National Forest.........May 28, 2014.