Common Name: Glossy Buckthorn
Alternate Name: Alder buckthorn, columnar buckthorn, fernleaf buckthorn, tallhedge buckthorn
Scientific Name: Frangula alnus Mill. and all cultivars
Related Species: Common/European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.)
Propagation and sale of this plant and its cultivars are prohibited in Minnesota. Transportation is only allowed when in compliance with Minnesota Statute 18.82. Although Restricted Noxious Weeds are not required to be controlled or eradicated by law, landowners are strongly encouraged to manage these invasive plants on their properties in order to reduce spread into new areas. Minnesota Noxious Weed Law.
Glossy buckthorn, native to Europe and Asia, is a highly invasive perennial understory shrub or a small tree that can reach heights of 15 - 20 feet and 10 inches in diameter. This species was introduced to North America as an ornamental shrub and used for living fence rows and wildlife habitat. Since its introduction, it has spread aggressively across most of the northeast and upper Midwest and has become a serious threat to the degradation of native forest understory habitats where it out-competes native plant species especially in wet meadows and other moist soil environments.
Glossy buckthorn occurs in a variety of upland forested habitats, but prefers sunny moist sites. It is typically found in forest understories, hedgerows, bogs, stream and lake edges, wetland boarders, wet meadows, urban landscapes, roadsides, and other disturbed habitats. Although not as widely distributed as common buckthorn, this species is currently found throughout Minnesota with the highest densities in forested and urban regions of east-central and southeast portions of the state. Glossy buckthorn continues to spread throughout Minnesota, therefore land owners and managers should be aware of this species and eradicate any new populations. Glossy buckthorn cultivars are still legally sold in the nursery trade in states outside of Minnesota. Therefore, occasionally national distributors may mistakenly send glossy buckthorn cultivars to Minnesota nursery dealers. Minnesota nursery managers and landowners should be aware of what they are purchasing and contact the MDA if glossy buckthorn or any of the following cultivars are discovered for sale in the state: Columnaris, Aspenifolia, or Ron Williams.
Ripened berries drop directly beneath the plants, resulting in a dense understory of seedlings. The fruits are also highly attractive to birds and small mammals, aiding in the spread of seeds to new areas, sometimes several miles from the initial infestation. Due to the spread of seeds via birds, glossy buckthorn is extremely hard to control and eradicate. View glossy buckthorn distribution in Minnesota.
Glossy buckthorn is a serious threat to riparian, wetland, bog, and meadow habitats in Minnesota. It can also thrive in a variety of upland landscapes including forested regions where it forms dense, even-aged stands that crowd out native understory species and often completely displaces understory habitats. These thick infestations also prevent the natural regeneration of forest tree and shrub species. Glossy buckthorn is also a concern to agricultural producers because it can serve as an alternate host for alfalfa mosaic virus, oat crown rust and soybean aphid.
MDA Noxious Weed Program
County Ag Inspectors