Shrub Species of the World's Boreal Forests

World Boreal Trees

Terminology | Pictorial

Rhamnus cathartica
European Buckthorn
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn Family)

An ornamental, spiny shrub or small tree, growing to a height of 6 m and a diameter of 10 cm.

European Buckthorn Description

Distinguishing Features - Leaves: opposite or clustered on short spurs 2 - 6 cm long; broadly elliptical, finely-toothed, nearly hairless, slender-stalked; colouration: green above, paler below. Bark: brown, smooth, reddish inner bark. Twigs: grayish; often in pairs and with short spurs; slender, nearlyhairless, ending in narrow pointed scaly buds or sharp spines. Flowers: 5 mm wide; bell-shaped with four spreading pointed greenish-yellow sepals; clustered on short stalks at leaf bases; male and female usually on separate plants; flowering late spring. Fruit: 8 mm in diameter; black, berrylike with bitter pulp; generally four seeds; maturing late summer and autumn.


Native to Europe and Asia; introduced to North America, found locally from southern Ontario east through Quebec to Nova Scotia; in dry soil conditions in sparse woods, clearings and along roadsides.


The European Buckthorn has been widely planted in Europe for hedges.

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