USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Wetland Plants and Plant Communities of Minnesota and Wisconsin

COMMON BUCKTHORN

(Rhamnus cathartica L.)


Common buckthorn

BUCKTHORN FAMILY (Rhamnaceae)

IND. STATUS: [FAC-]

FIELD CHARACTERISTICS: A shrub or small tree growing to 6 m. in height. Some branches end in short thorns. Leaves mostly opposite or subopposite, with some alternate. Leaves broadly elliptic, oblong, or elliptic-oblong, 3-6 cm. long, with a margin of fine teeth. Lateral leaf veins (2) 3 (4) on each side, strongly, upcurved. Plants are dioecious (unisexual) with female plants producing black fruit, 5-6 mm. thick, commonly with 4 stones (hard seeds). Flowers appear with the leaves and have parts in 4s.

ECOLOGICAL NOTES: Introduced from Eurasia and planted as an ornamental, common buckthorn is an aggressive invader of both upland and wetland habitats becoming a noxious weed. Some may consider it the "purple loosestrife of shrubs" for this reason. Birds eat the fruit and spread the seeds such that even scientific and natural area quality fens, prairies and woodlands now have infestations of buckthorn. Common buckthorn can form dense thickets that shade out species of sedge meadows, calcareous fens and the spring ephemerals of woodlands. It is especially prolific in drained peatlands and upland oak forests. Also see comments under glossy buckthorn (R. frangula).

SOURCE: Gleason and Cronquist (1991); Voss (1985).


Previous Section -- Common Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis L.)
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula L.)

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/plants/mnplant/rhca.htm
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Saturday, 02-Feb-2013 06:32:39 EST
Sioux Falls, SD [sdww55]