glossy buckthorn

(Frangula alnus)

Conservation Status
glossy buckthorn
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNA - Not applicable

SNA - Not applicable


not listed

Weed Status

Restricted Noxious Weed

Glossy buckthorn is listed as an invasive terrestrial plant by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FAC - Facultative


FACW - Facultative wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


Glossy buckthorn is a fast-growing tall shrub or small tree that rises on 1 or more stems. It can be up to 23 tall and up to 4 in diameter at breast height, though in Minnesota it is usually no more than 18 in height.

The crown is open and spreading.

The bark is smooth, thin, gray or grayish-brown, with prominent, warty, slightly raised lenticels. On older stems the bark may become shallowly fissured.

First-year twigs are slender and greenish and/or reddish-brown. They are covered with minute, fine, gray hairs, at least on the last ½, though this may require a hand lens to see. Second-year twigs are brown with a gray, flaky outer layer. There is no thorn at the tip of the twig. Buds are tan or rust-colored. They have no scales but are instead covered with a shriveled up leaf. Leaf scars have 3 bundle scars.

The leaves are alternate, deciduous, inversely egg-shaped to elliptical, 1½ to 3 long, and 1 to 1½ wide. They are on hairy, 3 16 to ¾ long leaf stalks. They are tapered at the base and abruptly pointed or occasionally rounded at the tip. There are 6 to 9 lateral veins on each side of the midrib. The veins are straight and parallel but curve up near the margin and follow the margin. They are depressed on the upper side of the leaf and stand out on the underside. The upper surface of the leaf blade is dark green, hairless, and glossy, giving this plant its common name. The lower surface is somewhat paler green and dull. It is sometimes hairless, more often covered with minute hairs at least along the main vein, though this may not be visible without a hand lens. The margins are untoothed. The leaves stay green into late fall.

The inflorescence is a stalkless, umbrella-like cluster (umbel) of 1 to 8 flowers rising from the leaf axils of the current year’s twigs.

The flowers are bell-shaped, small and inconspicuous, to 3 16 wide. They have 5 yellowish or greenish petals. Each flower is on a to long, usually hairy flower stalk. They appear in late May to mid-August after the leaves have formed.

The fruit is a berry-like, ¼ to 7 16 in diameter drupe. It is green at first, soon turning red, eventually turning purplish-black at maturity. It matures in early August to late September and falls to the ground before winter. The flowering period is very long. It is not unusual to see flowers and fruits at various stages of maturity on the same twig.




up to 23


Flower Color


Yellowish or greenish


Similar Species


Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) has thorns at the end of many of its twigs. The leaves are usually sub-opposite or opposite, only occasionally alternate. There are 3 to 5 strongly curved lateral veins on each side that arch toward the tip. The upper surface is not glossy. The margins are finely toothed. The flowers and fruit are in clusters of no more than 5. The fruit remains on the twig long into winter.


Wet to moist. Forest margins, river banks, lake shores, calcareous wetlands, ditches. Full sun to partial shade.




Late May to mid-August


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 22, 28, 29, 30.

BONAP shows glossy buckthorn much more widespread in Minnesota. However, these include reports in literature (light green on the map), not just observations (dark green).




Native to Europe, Asia, and northern Africa. Introduced and naturalized in North America.





  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Rosanae  


Rosales (roses, elms, figs, and allies)  


Rhamnaceae (buckthorn)  
  Tribe Rhamneae  


Frangula (false buckthorn)  

Subordinate Taxa






Rhamnus frangula

Rhamnus frangula var. angustifolia


Common Names


alder buckthorn

columnar buckthorn

European buckthorn

fen buckthorn

glossy buckthorn

shining buckthorn

tall hedge buckthorn
















The upper angle where a branch, stem, leaf stalk, or vein diverges.



Alkaline; rich in limestone; containing a high proportion of calcium carbonate.



A fleshy fruit with a single hard, stone-like core, like a cherry or peach.



A corky, round or stripe-like, usually raised, pore-like opening in bark that allows for gas exchange.



A flat-topped or convex, umbrella-shaped cluster of flowers or buds arising from more or less a single point.

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    glossy buckthorn      


    glossy buckthorn   glossy buckthorn  


    glossy buckthorn   glossy buckthorn  
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    glossy buckthorn   glossy buckthorn  



  Frangula alnus (Rhamnaceae)
Laura Roig·

Published on May 12, 2013

GRIN - Taxonomic information





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Other Videos
  Glossy Buckthorn ID

Published on Sep 3, 2012

Learn to identify the invasive shrub Glossy Buckthorn in this fast paced video field guide. Download the free Outsmart Invasive Species App to your smartphone and you can bring this and other videos into the field!

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  Infestation of Glossy Buckthorn
Ian Shackleford

Uploaded on Mar 12, 2011

An infestation of glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula). Ottawa National Forest, Ontonagon Ranger District, Compartment 82, Stand 40. Ontonagon County, Michigan. September 27, 2010. Pretty much all the green in the video is the non-native invasive plant glossy buckthorn.






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