Ontario Trees & Shrubs website

Glossy Buckthorn
Frangula alnus

Other common names: Alder Buckthorn, Buckthorn

Family: Buckthorn Family (Rhamnaceae)

Group: Buckthorns

Distinctive features: Shrub; Glossy leaves.

Similar species:
  •   Alder-leaved Buckthorn (Rhamnus alnifolia) - grows in very wet areas. Leaves not glossy.

  •   Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) - grows in drier areas. Leaves not glossy.

  •   Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera) - has reddish or greenish bark.
  •   Silky Dogwood (Cornus obliqua) - has striped bark.

Flowers: Spring;  Green/Brown;  4 parts (petals);  Small, hang down singly in sparse clusters, white to greenish-white.

Leaves: Opposite/Whorled, Alternate, Simple, Entire;  Round, thin, resemble those of Round-leaved Dogwood (Cornus rugosa). Usually alternate, sometimes opposite.

Height: Up to 6 m (20 ft)

Trunk: StraightDark, spotted.

Fruit/Seeds: A black berry. Not edible.

Habitat: Wet Areas;  Open wet woods. Not common or widespread (yet).

Books: Trees in Canada: 278    Shrubs of Ontario: 311   

Native/Non-native: Non-native

Status: Common, invasive.

Notes: Glossy Buckthorn is a very invasive alien plant, originally from Europe. It can grow up to about 20 feet tall. Please help to slow the spread of this plant by pulling it up whenever you see it. The wood is fairly brittle, so it is easy to break up even a large one. However, please be sure that you're pulling up the right plant, as it can resemble native Dogwoods.

Photographs: 56 photographs available, of which 13 are featured on this page. SCROLL DOWN FOR PHOTOGRAPHS.

Range Map is at the bottom of the page

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

A view of the overall plant, after a rain shower. Flower buds are visible.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

Another plant. Note the shiny (glossy) leaves.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

A typical Glossy Buckthorn leaf. Note the resemblance to Round-leaved Dogwood (Cornus rugosa) leaves! The leaves can also be somewhat pointed at the tips and not so round.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

This photo really shows the "glossy" aspect of the leaves.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

The underside of a leaf. Note this leaf is not as round as the other ones shown here.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

First leaves coming out in the spring (early May). This plant is growing in a wet area.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

Typical bark.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)


Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

The flowers are small and easily overlooked. White or greenish-white.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

The flowers hang singly, but in small groups.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

Ripe fruits and glossy leaves.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

A ripe fruit.

Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

A cluster of ripe fruits. They are not edible.

Range map for Glossy Buckthorn (Frangula alnus)

PLEASE NOTE: A coloured Province or State means this species occurs somewhere in that Province/State.
The entire Province/State is coloured, regardless of where in that Province/State it occurs.

(Range map provided courtesy of the USDA website and is displayed here in accordance with their Policies)