Glossy or alder buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)


Appearance: Tall understory shrub or small tree, grows up to 20' high, has a spreading loosely branched crown, often multiple stems at the base. Brown bark with elongate silvery corky projections (Caution: native plums or cherries have a similar bark).

Branches: Buds and leaves are alternate. No thorn at tip of twig. Cut branch exposes yellow sapwood and orange heartwood.

Leaves: Alternate, think, and ovate or elliptic smooth, dark glossy, margins are not toothed. There are eight to nine pair of leaf veins. Leaves stay green late into fall.

Flowers: Inconspicuous, appear in May or June, clustered in the axils of leaves.

Fruit: Ripens progressively from a distinctive red to a dark purple in August and September. Each berry has two to three seeds. Seeds are viable for two to three years in the soil.

Roots: Extensive fibrous root system.

Ecological Threat:

  • Aggressively invades wetlands including acidic bogs, calcareous fens and sedge meadows. Also grows in upland habitats, tolerates full sun to deep shade.
  • Plants leaf out early and retain leaves late into the fall creating dense shade.
  • Seeds have laxative effect on birds who disperse them.
  • Introduced to North America as ornamental shrub, often planted in hedgerows.
  • Glossy or alder buckthorn is on the MDA Restricted noxious weeds list in Minnesota.


Control Methods:

What you can do to control buckthorn


  • Prescribed fire for seedlings
  • Pulling in small infestations (weed wrench)


  • Cut-stump treatment with glyphosate; cut-stump or basal bark spray treatment around the stem with triclopyr
  • DNR permit to work in public water may be required


Additional Resources


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