|Bee on golden currant|
|Golden currant on left next to forsythia|
Last week we noticed bees buzzing around the deck. They were all over the golden currant, slurping up its nectar while totally ignoring the larger blossoms of the forsythia. Just like us, bees and other pollinators have their food preferences and they have never developed a taste for many of our exotic plantings.
"One man's ceiling is another man's floor." - Paul Simon
At first glance this would seem to be a desirable spreading species, colorful, fragrant and supporting pollinators. So why is it banned to some degree in 14 Eastern states? When growing in these regions as an exotic species, it is an alternate host of white pine blister rust fungus, a disease which doesn't affect our native short-leaf pine trees in Missouri.
Like the cedar apple rust gall we see in Missouri, white pine blister rust fungus Cronartium ribicola, has a complex life cycle requiring two separate types of host plants. It is an invasive from either Europe or Asia, visiting the US around 1900 and liking the naive species of pines it found here. Before attacking pines, it requires currants and gooseberries to support its earlier stage. The significant damage it does to susceptible pine species has led to the golden currant bans.
So is golden currant a good or bad choice for decorative planting? As usual, when faced with good-bad decisions, the answer is "it depends." For Missouri where it is native and beneficial it is a great plant. The key is in the phrase you are seeing all over Missouri, "Grow Native."