Buckthorn, Glossy

Fact SheetFrangula 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.

Check out this video by CT River Invasives on how to identify buckthorn. 


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

Treatment concerns: 

  • Glossy buckthorn typically "leafs out" early and retains its leaves into late fall, making it easy to detect in spring and autumn.  
  • Because of the high risk of spread by seeds, treatments are most effective before the plants go to seed. 
  • If feasible and fruit is present, bag and dispose of fruits to prevent seed dispersal. 
  • Follow-up treatments will be needed for at least a few years because of the seed bank. 

General guidance:

  • Most methodologies alone will not suffice and should be part of an integrated pest management plan.  
  • Which methods you choose also depend on the purpose of control: eradication (removal of all plants, plant parts, and seed bank), or containment (reducing seed production, reducing spread, reducing growth, removing individual plants near site of concern).  
  • All action promotes disturbance - mechanical, chemical, and even just doing nothing. Our work is in figuring out how to minimize disturbance and maximize positive benefits. 
  • The intent of mechanical or chemical treatment is to kill target plants. 
  • Management options listed below are representative of research by institutions like The Nature Conservancy, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and the US Forest Service.    
  • Here are additional guidance documents on best management practices for glossy buckthorn. 
  • Minnesota Department of Agriculture Summary of Glossy Buckthorn 
  • Michigan Department of Natural Resources Best Control Practices for Glossy Buckthorn 
  • US Forest Service Fire Effects Information System Report on Glossy Buckthorn 
Summary of Mechanical Treatment Options 
  • Mechanical treatment can sometimes cause greater disturbance than if the site was left alone or if another treatment option was utilized. 
  • If pulling or digging, remember that soil disturbance can encourage growth from seed bank.   
  • This species resprouts vigorously from roots or stumps not fully removed. 

text in a table describing mechanical treatments for Glossy Buckthorn

Summary of Chemical Treatment Options
  • Be careful not to damage or kill nearby desirable plants when conducting management work.  
  • Always read and follow pesticide label directions. Application of pesticides may require a certification from the Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets. The Agency website provides information on what applicator certification is needed.
  • If a treatment for a specific species isn’t listed on a given product, don’t use it. 
  • Product labels may require you to check Endangered Species Protection Bulletins. Learn more about protection bulletins here.  
  • Understand the risk of, and how to avoid, drift.  
  • The timing of some chemical treatments may overlap with when certain plants are flowering, and, in order to protect pollinators, herbicides should not be applied when plants are flowering. To mitigate the risk, consider utilizing an integrated pest management plan, such as cutting the plants to set back flowering time, and then applying pesticides in the lowest effective volume. 
  • Chemical treatments pose a risk to plants, animals, and humans, but can be used in ways that greatly reduce this risk, and provide a solution to otherwise hopeless scenarios. 
  • For questions regarding the appropriate chemical to use for a particular situation, or general information on pesticide safety, ingredients, and more, contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets’ Pesticide Program.  
  • For questions about certification and continuing education credit opportunities, contact the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets’ Pesticide Program.  
  • For questions about additional training opportunities, contact the UVM Extension Pesticide Safety Education Program.  
  • Special permits are required to apply herbicides in a wetland. Contact Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s Wetlands Section for more information.  
  • Herbicides cannot be applied within 200 feet of a Public Water Source Protection Area unless the Water Supply Division is notified. Call 1-800-823-6500 for more information. Similar requirements may be in place for proximity to private water sources.  
  • Forests that are certified organic or adjacent to organically certified agricultural lands may carry restrictions regarding chemical application. Check with the Northeast Organic Farming Agency of Vermont for more information.  
  • The National Pesticide Information Center provides objective, science-based information about pesticides. Check out their website for more information or call 1-800-858-7378. 

text in a table describing chemical treatments for Glossy Buckthorn

  • There are currently no known biocontrol agents for glossy buckthorn. 

How You Can Help


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