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Glossy Buckthorn

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus) ID Leaves, Photo Credit: Leslie J. Mehrhoff,

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Common Name: Glossy buckthorn
Scientific Name: Frangula alnus
Origin: Europe, northern Africa, and western Asia


Glossy buckthorn is a deciduous shrub, or small tree, that can grow up to 30 ft in height. Bark is dark gray to brown with white lenticels. Leaves are shiny with prominent, even venation stretching towards leaf margins. Flower in the spring (pale yellow) and produces dark purple berries. Common buckthorn is a similar species.


Glossy buckthorn will establish in a wide-range of habitats including forests, forest edges, open fields and riparian areas, and will tolerate dry to wet soils. Glossy buckthorn is most often found in areas wetter to those frequented by common buckthorn.


Glossy buckthorns grow rapidly and are prolific seed producers. They leaf out early in the spring and retain their leaves longer than many native plants. They grow into dense thickets, displacing native under-story plants and shading tree seedlings. Leaves are quick to decompose, altering soil composition and pH. Invasive shrubs, including glossy buckthorn, have been shown to decrease insect diversity and biomass, and have additional negative impacts on native bird species including malnutrition (due to the poor nutritional value of berries) and increased nest predation (due to the high density of shrubs).


Management options for buckthorn may include manual, mechanical and chemical removal. Seedlings and smaller shrubs may be hand-pulled or dug out. Large infestation can be mowed using a forestry mower, in preparation for foliar chemical treatments. Effective herbicide treatments include foliar, basal bark, and cut-stump. Follow-up treatment will likely be required. glossy buckthorn are prolific seed producers and tend to re-establish via the seedbank after herbicide treatment. Different herbicides can be more or less effective, depending on timing of application.

Regional Distribution


WNY PRISM Priority

Tier 4 – Local Control


Glossy buckthorn was introduced as an ornamental plant and was widely planted across the landscape. Glossy buckthorn spreads primarily by seed that is transported by birds and humans.


Glossy buckthorn is a prohibited species in New York State – for more information on Prohibited and Regulated Species, visit

Native Landscape Alternatives

Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Northern Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)

American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)