Buckthorn, Glossy

Fact SheetTreatmentFrangula alnus

Images of this species:

Common look-alikes:



Large shrub or small tree that can grow to heights of 30 feet. Its bark is gray to brown with white lenticels.


Dark green leaves are shiny, alternate (sometime opposite) and simple with prominent venation.


Flowers are inconspicuous, pale greenish-yellow to yellow in color and occur in clusters in the leaf axis. Flowering occurs from May through September.


Fleshy fruit ripens from red to a dark purple or black color. You can see ripe fruit beginning about July through September.




Ecological Threat: 

Glossy buckthorn is particularly aggressive in wet areas, rapidly producing a dense shade that eliminates native plants. It also engages in species-specific allelopathy, changing the structure of native plant communities.


Glossy buckthorn was first introduced into the United States in the mid 1800s as an ornamental. It has been used for hedges and wildlife habitat. A variety of cultivars are still sold in some nurseries


forests, forest edges, fields, meadows, wet areas, disturbed areas

Life Cycle

Glossy buckthorn spreads by seed, recruiting birds that eat its prolific berries. Seeds may also be spread by water since fresh fruit can float for over two weeks. Dispersal may be significant in areas that receive frequent and extensive fall and winter flooding.

Management Options

This species is Quarantined: Class B Noxious Weed

    Mechanical Control: 

    Hand pull: Any time of year when the ground is soft, especially after a rain, hand pull small plants by the base of the stem. Be sure to pull up the entire root system. Hang from a branch to prevent re-rooting. For larger plants, use a wrenching tool. Continue to monitor the area every year for new seedlings.

    Cut stump: Cut plants back any time of year. Wrap a few layers of burlap or thick plastic over the stump and tie tightly with twine. You will need to check stumps periodically and cut back any new growth.

    Propane torch: This method can be effective on seedlings. For more information, check out this summary of mechanical treatment options from the University of New Hampshire.

    Chemical Control: 

    Cut stump: Cut the plant 4 inches above the ground. Use a drip bottle to apply a 18-21% glyphosate solution to the stump within one hour of cutting. This is best done in late summer through winter when plants are transporting resources to their root systems.

    Low volume foliar spray:  This method is used for dense populations and best left to a contractor. In the fall, when native plants are losing their leaves, spray a 2% glyphosate or triclopyr solution on the entire leaf surface of the plant. In order to avoid drift to native plants, spray only on calm days.


    **Be careful not to damage or kill nearby native plants when conducting management work. And when using herbicides, always follow the instructions on the label.**

    How You Can Help


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    Native Perennials and Shrubs for Vermont Gardens​​

    Choose native plants

    Alternatives to Common Invasive Plants and Characteristics of Select Alternatives