Invasive Species -


Common Buckthorn
(Rhamnus cathartica L.)

Photos & Description courtesy of IPANE/

What Common Buckthorn does to the habitat

Grows in dense thickets and crowds out light, inhibiting native plants.
The species also discourages native plants by decreasing the leaf litter (and hence nourishment of the soil) and increasing the nitrogen in the soil.



Fire is used by some to manage Common buckthorn. Frequent mowing will also reduce growth.

Another method is to spray foliage with systemic herbicide which is best done in late Summer or early Fall.

First, saw the stems off flush with the ground, and then, while the cuts are still fresh apply a mixture of 4 parts water to 1 part Round-Up concentrate with a paintbrush. In fall, the kill rate is very close to 100% as the plant naturally translocates sap to its roots. The herbicide is carried along to the root zone.


Common Name

Full Scientific Name

Common buckthorn
European buckthorn
Rhamnus cathartica L.

Family Name Common

Family Scientific Name

Buckthorn family Rhamnus cathartica


Botanical Glossary

Rhamnus cathartica is a deciduous small tree or coarse shrub. It grows 2-6 m (6.5-20 ft.) tall. The glabrous branches usually have shoots that are tipped with stout spines. The leaves are opposite to subopposite, elliptic to ovate, 3.6-7.2 cm (1.5-3 in.) long and can be acute or obtuse. They are glabrous and have minutely serrate margins. The lateral veins (usually 3, but can be 2 or 4) on each side are strongly upcurved. The leaves remain on the plant late into the autumn, when most of the native species have already lost their leaves. The fragrant, non-showy yellow-green flowers of Rhamnus cathartica are polygamodioecious, 4-petaled, and are present in clusters of 2-6. These flowers appear in the spring while the leaves are expanding, and are borne near the bases of the leaf stalks. The dark, purple to black fruit are globose drupes, about 0.6 cm (0.25 in.) across, contain 3-4 seeds and appear in the fall. Page References Bailey 645, Fernald 992, Gleason & Cronquist 342, Holmgren 322, Magee & Ahles 724.

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