Glossy Buckthorn


Glossy buckthorn is a deciduousa shrub or tree which sheds its leaves annually small tree or coarse shrub that grows up to 20 feet tall. The young branchlets are pubescent. The short oblong to obovate leaves are 1.0-2.5 inches long and are arranged alternately. They are dark green (in the summer) and shining above, and glabroussmooth; free from hairs or slightly pubescent beneath. The leaves turn greenish-yellow to yellow in the fall, and remain on the plant when most other species have already lost their leaves. The yellow-green flowers of Frangula alnus are bisexual and 5-merous, and arranged in 1-8 flowered sessile, glabrous umbels. This plant flowers after the leaves expand, from May to September. The fruit are globose drupes, changing from red to black, and are 0.25 inches across. They ripen from July to August. It is important to note that at any given time there can be flowers, partially ripened fruits (red) and fully ripened fruits (black) present on the same plant.


This plant tolerates moisture and grows abundantly in shaded forest understories. It can be found in swamps, fens and the edges of bogs. It also can be present in upland habitats such as woodland edges, fencerows, and old fields.

History and Introduction

Like Common Buckthorn, this plant was introduced to the United States before 1800 and started to invade native habitats probably around the early 1900s.


Frangula alnus is a great threat to wetlands, where it can form dense stands that cause the growth of other species to be suppressed. It is readily dispersed by birds, and the extended productivity of the fruits allows it to be dispersed throughout the summer and fall. It is also an alternative host to crown rust fungi that infects oats.

Dispersal Methods

The fruit of Frangula alnus are most often dispersed by birds.


As with any other invasive infestation complex, large stands of glossy buckthorn are best managed via a combination of mechanical and chemical means. Small seedlings and plants can be hand pulled or removed using a weed wrench while larger shrubs must be cut and sprayed, either with a basal bark or cut stump application, to attain good control. All managed infestations should be monitored to ensure exhaustion of the seed bank for at least two years and to prevent reinvasion from nearby populations. Any new seedlings can be hand pulled or sprayed. 


Remove plants before producing fruit by hand pulling or digging; use control burning in spring and fall, burning may need repeating annually or biannually for two to three years to deplete the seed bank.


It can be effectively controlled using any of several readily available general use herbicides such as glyphosatea widely used herbicide that can kill certain weeds and grasses, it works by blocking an enzyme essential for plant growth or triclopyrherbicide used to control both broadleaf and woody plants. Retreat foliage of re-sprouts. Follow label and state requirements.

Glossy Buckthorn Branch

Glossy Buckthorn Fruits

Scientific Name

Frangula alnus

Other Nicknames

Alder Buckthorn, Breaking Buckthorn, European Alder Buckthorn, Glossy False Buckthorn.

Native Area

Europe, North Africa, and Central Asia.

Similar Species

Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

View Glossy Buckthorn Flyer (Printable PDF)

Glossy Buckthorn Leaves

Glossy Buckthorn Leaves

Glossy Buckthorn Fruit

Glossy Buckthorn Fruit

Glossy Buckthorn Shrub

Glossy Buckthorn Shrub

Glossy Buckthorn Branch - Sten Porse, Wikimedia Commons | Glossy Buckthorn Leaves - Robert Killam, Town of Natick | Glossy Buckthorn Fruit - Dariusz Kowalczyk, Wikimedia Commons | Glossy Buckthorn Shrub - Matt Lavin, Wikimedia Commons