Glossy buckthorn is a large shrub or small tree that can grow to heights of 30 ft. (9.1 m). The dark green leaves are shiny, alternate (sometime opposite) and simple with prominent venation. The flowers are inconspicuous, pale yellow in color and occur in clusters in the leaf axis. Flowering occurs in the spring. The fleshy fruit ripens to a dark purple color. The bark is gray to brown with white lenticels. It invades moist woodlands and disturbed areas throughout the Northeast and Midwest. Its rapid growth and prolific seed production make this plant an aggressive invader that can form dense thickets which shade and displace native understory plants, shrubs, and tree seedlings.
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
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.
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Alternate-leaved dogwood (Swida alternifolia), Northern spicebush (Lindera benzoin)