Glossy buckthorn Pilla

Family:     Rhamnaceae (buckthorn family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     3-7 m (9.8 - 23 ft)

Blooming: May - August


Glossy Buckthorn

Rhamnus frangula L.



Stem: multiple stems that are covered in spots (lenticels).  Young stems are hairy.  Older stems are smooth. 

Flowers: are small, whitish-green, egg-shaped with five little petals.  They are clustered in two to ten flowers growing in the axils of the leaves.  Both male and female parts are on each individual flower.

Leaves: alternately arranged, usually obovate-oblong in shape (egg shaped).  The leaves are dark green and shiny on top with a little hair on the underside of the leaf.  It keeps its leaves until late Autumn.  It has 8-9 leaf veins. 

Fruit: red, fleshy drupes that turn a dark purple looking almost black.

Sun: Full sun to shade

Ideal Conditions: Open to shaded, moist areas.

What to plant instead:

* Black Chokeberry (Aronia x prunifolia)

* Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)

* Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

glossy buckthorn flower
gossy buckthorn trail creek fen

Comments: Glossy buckthorn is an invasive wetland shrub from Eurasia that was planted throughout North America as hedges and landscape shrubs.  It can invade wetlands and uplands.


Frangula alnus is a synonym.  

Birds eat the seeds and spread them throughout natural areas.  With the death of ash trees throughout Northwest Indiana, glossy buckthorn is invading even more aggressively. 

Glossy buckthorn is similar to other buckthorns but has (1) no scales on its winter buds, (2) bisexual flowers, and (3) no teeth on the leaf blades.

If you have questions about control options for removing glossy buckthorn on your property, see the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources recommendations.  

Etymology: The genus name, Rhamnus, is Greek for buckthorn.  Frangula means "to break", possibly due to its week wood.  Rhamnus was also the name of a legendary Greek city in Attica which was where sanctuaries for Nemesis, the goddess of retribution for evil, were.  

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

glossy buckthorn leaves
glossy buckthorn bark
glossy buckthorn winter bud
glossy buckthorn winter bud