Common Name: Common Buckthorn
Alternate Names: European Buckthorn, Buckthorn
Scientific Name: Rhamnus cathartica L.
Related Species: Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus Mill.)
Propagation and sale of this plant 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.
Common buckthorn, native to Europe and Asia, is a highly invasive perennial understory shrub or a small tree that can reach heights of 20- 30 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.
Common buckthorn occurs in a variety of upland forested habitats, but can also invade grasslands. It is typically found in forest understories, hedgerows, thickets, stream and lake edges, abandoned fields, urban landscapes, roadsides, and other disturbed habitats. This species is currently found throughout Minnesota with the highest densities in forested and urban regions of the southern half of the state. Buckthorn continues to spread north and land managers in northern Minnesota counties should be aware of this species and eradicate new populations to avoid spread into valuable forest lands and other sensitive habitats.
Ripened berries drop directly beneath the plants where a dense understory of seedlings is eventually produced. The fruits are also highly attractive to birds and small mammals that aid in the spread of seeds to new areas, sometimes several miles from the initial infestation. Due to the spread of seeds via birds, buckthorn is extremely hard to control and eradicate. View common buckthorn distribution in Minnesota.
Common buckthorn infestations form dense, even-aged stands that crowd out native understory species and often completely displace forest understory habitats. These thick infestations also prevent the natural regeneration of forest tree and shrub species. 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