There are 2 species of a group of plants known as buckthorn that have and are continuing to cause big problems in Minnesota and other parts of the United States. They are common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) and glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula).

Leaves and berries of common buckthorn

RhamnuscatharticabyMattLavinCC BY-SA 2.0
  • Both species of buckthorn are small trees or large shrubs that can be either single or multi-stemmed. The leaves are simple and oval-like. They stay green and remain attached to the tree late into fall.
  • The crowns are irregular.
  • The branches of common buckthorn may have spines at the end; some branches have blunt ends.
  • The bark is similar to that of cherry trees (Prunus spp.). It is dark brown and smooth on young trees and begins to peel on older trees.
  • Female plants of both species contain reddish or purple berries.
  • Common buckthorn grows about anywhere. It is found on wet and dry sites.
  • Glossy buckthorn tends to favor wet sites.
  • Common buckthorn is the most common species found in Andover.

Common buckthorn


Why it is a Problem

Common and glossy buckthorn are both non-native, invasive species. They were introduced to the U.S. in the mid 1800's to early 1900's. They both grow naturally in parts of Europe and Asia. The following summarizes the many reasons they are such a problem:
  • They are extremely invasive.
  • They out-compete native trees and shrubs.
  • They lower the diversity of a given area.
  • They are unappealing to the eye.
  • It's bad for wildlife such as birds; birds don't prefer eating the berries, but will if they're the only food choice; berries cause problem to digestive system for birds.
  • It tends to be timely, expensive, and a challenge to remove and eliminate from a given area.

Leaves of glossy buckthorn

FrangulaalnusbyPlantImageLibraryCc BY-SA 2.0

Control Options

 Despite the challenge, it's important to take the appropriate action(s) to remove buckthorn. More often than not, a lot of hard work is involved. The keys to a successful abatement of buckthorn are effort and persistency. If it's worth protecting or restoring an area with native plant material, it's definitely worth putting in the effort. The end result of a successful effort will produce many benefits. The following links outline some effective control measures.

Read more about Buckthorn Control Options (PDF).

Planting After Buckthorn

See link below to learn more about buckthorn and what native species would do well after removing buckthorn from a given site.
Additional Buckthorn Info

Glossy buckthorn with berries