Buckthorn

Invasive species

Nature

Most of these invasive plant factsheets are created from the booklet Minnesota invasive non-native terrestrial plants, an identification guide for resource managers.

Check the additional resources and herbicides table for more information.


Buckthorn identification

Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

Appearance: Tall understory shrub or small tree up to 25' high with a spreading loosely branched crown, often multiple stems at the base. Female and male plants.

Common buckthorn leaf

Leaves: Egg-shaped, pointed at the tip, smooth, dark, glossy and finely-toothed. 3-5 pair of curved leaf veins. Leaves stay green late into fall.

Common buckthorn branch in winter

Branch: Buds and leaves are sub-opposite, opposite, or alternate. Twigs often end in small (<1/4") sharp, stout thorns.

Common buckthorn bark

Wood: Brown bark with elongate silvery corky projections (caution: native plums or cherries have a similar bark). Cut branch exposes yellow sapwood and orange heartwood.

Common buckthorn berries

Fruit: Large, round, berry-like clusters of black 1/4" fruit. Ripens in August and September.

 

Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

Appearance: Tall understory shrub or small tree, grows up to 18' high, has a spreading loosely branched crown, often multiple stems at the base.

Glossy buckthorn leaf

Leaves: Oval, smooth, dark, glossy, and toothless edges. 8-9 pair of leaf veins. Leaves stay green late into fall.

Glossy buckthorn branch in winter

Branch: Buds and leaves are alternate. No thorn at tip of twig.

Glossy buckthorn bark

Wood: Brown bark with elongate silvery corky projections (caution: native plums or cherries have a similar bark). Cut branch exposes yellow sapwood and orange heartwood.

Glossy buckthorn berries

Fruit: Small clusters of berry-like, 1/4" fruit. Ripens progressively from a distinctive red-brown to a dark purple in August and September.