Are Red Currant plants allowed in Maine?


I’m looking for information on whether Red Currant plants are allowed in Cumberland County? If only certain types, how can I identify if I have one that is allowed. If not allowed, what is correct removal/disposal?


Jonathan Foster, Home Horticulture Outreach Professional

I had to do a bit of research on this one and consulted with UMaine Extension agriculture professor Caragh Fitzgerald and the Maine State Horticulturist, Gary Fish.

As you probably know, species in the currant genus (Ribes) serve as one of the two species in the life cycle of white pine blister rust, a devastating disease to the other of the two species–our own state tree, the eastern white pine. Historically, a number of legal restrictions and quarantines on currants have been enacted, rescinded, and reenacted by several states (read more in the background section of this State of New Hampshire/UNH Extension study). Maine has obviously been among them.

To your question, all red currants and other members of the same genus are under quarantine restrictions in Maine: “The sale, transportation, further planting or possession of plants of the genus Ribes (commonly) known as currant and gooseberry plants, including cultivated, wild, or ornamental sorts is prohibited in the following Counties in the State of Maine, to wit: York, Cumberland, Androscoggin, Kennebec, Sagadahoc, Lincoln, Knox, Waldo, Hancock, and parts of Oxford, Franklin, Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, Aroostook, and Washington map (PDF | 11 MB)list of towns (PDF | 9 MB). ”

While possession of the plants is prohibited, I doubt you are in serious danger of any kind of enforcement. However, your plant(s) is potentially quite problematic for any eastern white pines in the area and you risk spreading the rust. Depending on how many plants you have, this could be a relatively easy job or a big undertaking: there is control information in this Maine Forest Service fact sheet on the White Pine Blister Rust, including options for excavating the plants physically and recommendations for chemical control. If you choose to use a pesticide, please read carefully and follow conscientiously all label instructions. More is not better. As with many woody perennials, removing established plants might be a several season job using multiple methods, and currants sprout and root readily from cuttings. Persistence will pay off.

I’m sorry not to have happier news for you, but I applaud your awareness of the currants and their situation. This could be a great time to replace the plant with a nice native (see our UMaine Cooperative Extension Bulletin #2500 and Home Page for Plants for the Maine Landscape) or another small fruit plant (see our Home Page for Small Fruits ).

Happy gardening.