European buckthorn USDA PLANTS Symbol: RHCA3
U.S. Nativity: Exotic
Habit: Shrub or Subshrub Hardwood Trees
Rhamnus cathartica L.

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Taxonomic Rank: Magnoliopsida: Rhamnales: Rhamnaceae
Synonym(s): common buckthorn, European buckthorn
Native Range: Europe, W. & N. Asia (REHD);

Common buckthorn is a deciduous shrub or small tree that can grow to 25 ft. (7.6 m) in height. The bark is dark gray and the inner bark is orange (easily seen when the tree is cut). Twigs are usually tipped with a sharp spine. The leaf arrangement is usually subopposite, but examples of opposite and/or alternate arrangements are commonly found. Leaves are dark green, oval, 1.5 to 3 in. (3.8-7.6 cm) long, slightly serrate with 3 to 4 pairs of curving veins and a somewhat folded tip. Flowering occurs in the spring, when yellow-green, 4-petaled flowers develop in clusters of 2 to 6 near the base of the petioles. Plants are dioecious (male and female flowers occur on separate plants). Fruits are small, black berries that are 0.25 in. (0.6 cm) in diameter. Common buckthorn invades forests, prairies and savannas in the Midwestern United States and can form dense thickets crowding out native shrubs and understory plants. Once established, it is difficult to remove. Common buckthorn is a native of Europe and was introduced into the United States as an ornamental shrub.

Identification, Biology, Control and Management Resources

Selected Images from Invasive.orgView All Images at Invasive.org


Tree(s); Rhamnus cathartica; common buckthorn
Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulurist, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s);
Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
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Foliage;
Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s);
Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s);
Jan Samanek, State Phytosanitary Administration, Bugwood.org
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Fruit(s); Fruit in winter
Steven Katovich, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s); Staminate flowers
Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org
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Flower(s);
Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
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Foliage; Leaves often exhibit a curled or crimped look at the tip.
Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
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Foliage; Story, County, IA
Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
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Feature(s); Pointed "buckthorn" at the end of the stem.
Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
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Twig(s)/Shoot(s); Sub-opposite arrangement. South Dakota
Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
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Infestation; On left with bush honeysuckle on right.
Chris Evans, Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, Bugwood.org
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Feature(s); Leaf scars and buds
Paul Wray, Iowa State University, Bugwood.org
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Plant(s); Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated flora of the northern states and Canada. Vol. 2: 502.
USDA PLANTS Database, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database, Bugwood.org
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Seed(s);
Steve Hurst, USDA NRCS PLANTS Database, Bugwood.org
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EDDMapS Distribution:
This map is incomplete and is based only on current site and county level reports made by experts and records obtained from USDA Plants Database. For more information, visit www.eddmaps.org
 


State(s) Where Reported invasive.
Based on state level agency and organization lists of invasive plants from WeedUS database.

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U.S. National Parks where reported invasive:
Minute Man National Historical Park (Massachusetts)
Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway (Wisconsin)



Invasive Listing Sources:
City of Ann Arbor Michigan Parks and Recreation
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 1994.
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection
Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group
Faith Campbell, 1998
Hoffman, R. & K. Kearns, Eds. 1997. Wisconsin manual of control recommendations for ecologically invasive plants. Wisconsin Dept. Natural Resources, Bureau of Endangered Resources. Madison, Wisconsin. 102pp.
Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society
Invasive Plant Council of New York State
Jil M. Swearingen, Survey of invasive plants occurring on National Park Service lands, 2000-2007
John Randall, The Nature Conservancy, Survey of TNC Preserves, 1995.
Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 1994
Mid-Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2005
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 1998
Missouri Department of Conservation,
New Hampshire Invasive Species Committee. 2005. Guide to Invasive Upland Plant Species in New Hampshire. New Hampshire Department of Agriculture,  Markets and Food Plant Industry Division and New Hampshire Invasive Species Committee.
New Jersey Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, 2004
Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust, Pennsylvania.
Reichard, Sarah. 1994.  Assessing the potential of invasiveness in woody plants introduced in North America. University of Washington Ph.D. dissertation.
Rhode Island Natural History Society,
Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation
Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 2009