Glossy Buckthorn

Frangula alnus


Glossy buckthorn is native to Europe and was first introduced into the United States in the mid 1800s as an ornamental.


Glossy buckthorn is a large shrub or small tree that can grow to heights of 25 feet. The dark green leaves are shiny, sometime opposite, and simple with prominent venation and the underside of the leaves hairy. The flowers are inconspicuous, pale yellow in color, and occur in clusters in the leaf axis. Flowering occurs in the spring. The fruit ripens to a dark purple color. The bark is gray to brown with white lenticels (pores that allow the interchange of gases between the interior tissue and the surrounding air.)
Glossy Buckthron Small Red Berries


All non native buckthorns propagate by seed dispersal via bird or mice, but cut stumps, any root remaining in the ground, or burned will re-sprout.


Glossy Buckthorn invades moist woodlands and disturbed areas throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and is tolerant of many soil types. Its rapid growth and prolific seed production make these plants an aggressive invader that can form dense thickets which shade and displace native under story plants, shrubs, and tree seedlings. Like many invasives, plants leaf out early and retain leaves late into the fall creating dense shade to native plants. Look-alike plants include Alder buckthorn (Rhamnus alnifolia) is a small native shrub less than 3 feet in height with twigs that are hairless and dark scales on the buds in winter. It usually occurs in wetlands.


Hand pulling is acceptable for small saplings of this species, with mechanical removal and a "cut-and-dab" chemical treatment needed for larger bushes. A weed wrench would be good for this kind of plant. Make sure to bag all limbs that may contain berries to prevent the spread of the plant. Foliar spray is not recommended as it can be harmful to the surrounding floura and fauna. See the invasive removal page for how to carry out these methods. Any removal within 100 feet of wetland resource areas, including certified vernal pools, or within 200 feet of a perennial stream may require approval from the Concord Natural Resources Commission. Please contact the Division of Natural Resources before you begin.


The following native plants can serve as a good replacement to glossy buckthorn in a garden:
  • Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
  • Gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa),
  • Common witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
  • American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
  • Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)
  • Arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum recognitum or V. dentatum)
Glossy Buckthron Small Bush with Many Small Berries
Glossy Buckthron Stem