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University of Minnesota Extension

Glossy buckthorn

Quick facts

Glossy buckthorn is a Restricted noxious weed. It is illegal to import, sell or transport buckthorn in Minnesota.

  • Glossy buckthorn leafs out early and retains leaves late, creating dense shade.
  • Dense stands crowd out native vegetation.
  • It can often completely displace forest understory habitat.

Glossy buckthorn should be reported. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources provides detailed recommendations for reporting invasive species.

How to identify glossy buckthorn

  • Glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) is a tall understory shrub or small tree up to 25 feet high.
  • Spreading, loosely branched crown.
  • Often multiple stems at the base.


  • Brown bark with elongated silvery cork-like projections.
  • Native plums and cherries have similar bark.


  • Often sub-opposite (almost opposite), sometimes alternate.


  • Mostly sub-opposite, sometimes alternate.
  • Thin and oval or elliptic.
  • Smooth, dark glossy, margins are not toothed.
  • Stays green late into fall.


  • Inconspicuous, small, 5-petaled, yellowish flowers appear in May or June, clustered in leaf axils.
  • Flowers contain both male and female parts, so all shrubs can fruit.

Fruit and seeds

  • Clustered in leaf axils along the stem and ripen progressively from a distinctive red to a dark purple in August and September.
  • Berries have a laxative effect on birds, which aids in seed dispersal.
  • Seeds are viable for 2 to 3 years in the soil.


  • Extensive fibrous root system.
Glossy buckthorn flowers
Glossy buckthorn berries

Angela Gupta, Extension educator; Amy Rager, Extension educator; Megan M. Weber, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2019

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