Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Common Buckthorn, European Buckthorn, Waythorn, Hart's Thorn
Rhamnus cathartica

Family: Rhamnaceae
Genus: Rhamnus (RAM-nus) (Info)
Species: cathartica (kat-AR-tik-uh) (Info)

One member has or wants this plant for trade.


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)
15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)

USDA Zone 2a: to -45.5 C (-50 F)
USDA Zone 2b: to -42.7 C (-45 F)
USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring


Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Soil pH requirements:
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)
7.9 to 8.5 (alkaline)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
Unknown - Tell us

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

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to view:

By Greenish
Thumbnail #1 of Rhamnus cathartica by Greenish

By Greenish
Thumbnail #2 of Rhamnus cathartica by Greenish

By Greenish
Thumbnail #3 of Rhamnus cathartica by Greenish

By Equilibrium
Thumbnail #4 of Rhamnus cathartica by Equilibrium

By Todd_Boland
Thumbnail #5 of Rhamnus cathartica by Todd_Boland

By Equilibrium
Thumbnail #6 of Rhamnus cathartica by Equilibrium

By PFSchaffner
Thumbnail #7 of Rhamnus cathartica by PFSchaffner

There are a total of 9 photos.
Click here to view them all!


No positives
2 neutrals
11 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Negative Rickwebb On Jan 14, 2015, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

This invasive European shrub is a monster. It is infesting the open woods of the Chicago, IL, area and parts of Wisconsin, and other Midwestern states. It is a messy, large, rampant growing shrub full of dead twigs. It does not quite have thorns, but it has sharp woody spurs that easily catch clothing as one goes by and it hurts. Its dark rounded leaves are pretty but they stay on the plant deep into December as green with no fall color. It bears lots of large black berries that make the birds poop too much and does not give them enough nourishment here in NA. The deer don't eat this thing, so it flourishes and pushes out better native shrubs that would offer wildlife a greater and more diverse food source. It should be exterminated in America.

Negative coriaceous On Feb 9, 2014, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

With shrub honeysuckles, common buckthorn often forms solid understories in natural forest areas of northeastern North America. Like the honeysuckles, it leafs out very early, shading out the native herbaceous layer.

This spiny invasive species is banned in three states and a designated noxious weed in three others. Birds eat the fruit and then distribute the seed far and wide through the landscape.

This species was used for hedging in the 19th century, but it went out of use as better hedging plants became available.

Negative CCrews On May 8, 2013, CCrews from Huslia, AK (Zone 4b) wrote:

Destroys tadpoles in riparian areas.

Negative joeyramone On Jun 4, 2009, joeyramone from Schenectady, NY wrote:

I only recently identified this invasive @#$$#% bush (as I called it before I knew the name) on our property in upstate New York. We've been on a mission to get rid of it ever since. We're in it for the long haul though- we have over an acre and it's everywhere- in the lawn, at the perimeters and all over the understory in our bit of woods. We hope to replace it and other invasives (garlic mustard, etc) with natives. It's only saving grace is that it's fairly easy to uproot if you catch it early.

Negative RosemaryA On Aug 4, 2008, RosemaryA from Toronto, ON (Zone 5b) wrote:

In Ontario, European buckthorn is considered a noxious weed and property owners are legally required to get rid of it.

Negative trioadastra On May 31, 2008, trioadastra from Ellsworth, WI (Zone 4a) wrote:

Evil scrub tree! At least 4 of them came w/ the house, and I am constantly yanking out the seedlings, at least a hundred each year. The buckthorn is like a tree version of creeping charlie-- spreads everywhere and is impossible to get rid of.

Negative distantkin On Nov 3, 2007, distantkin from Saint Cloud, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

European or common buckthorn and glossy or alder buckthorn are listed as restricted noxious weeds in Minnesota. It is illegal to import, sell, or transport buckthorn in Minnesota.

Negative tginmn On Mar 25, 2007, tginmn from Eden Prairie, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

The only purpose for this plant is to get rid of every bush, tree and plant in an area. The berries make a terrific laxative :)

Negative SW_gardener On Mar 8, 2006, SW_gardener from (Zone 6a) wrote:

I do not have much good to say about this tree except that ours has a nice shape but other then that nothing good...
#1. It comes up everywhere in the HUNDREDS. #2. It is extreamly difficult to pull out. And their even harder to pull out if they've grown for a season. And #3. The mature ones have lots of very long and pointy thorns which could make it quite difficult if you want to cut it down. Don't get this plant!

Negative Equilibrium On Sep 17, 2004, Equilibrium wrote:

Horribly invasive. This is an exotic species to North America that is displacing indigenous flora at an ever increasing rate. This plant is capable of out competing native plants quite successfully. In my region, it is generally an understory plant. It is one of the first shrubs to green up in the spring and one of the last to lose its leaves in the fall. This extended growing season gives it a competitive edge in that it blocks out sunlight to the ground which quite successfully inhibits germination of other flora. Over time, monocultures of this plant can be established.

Should one wish to remove this plant, I am of the opinion the stump will need to be treated to avoid suckering in which the plant comes back ten fold. I would encourage anyone on the continent of North America who is capable of doing so to remove this plant and seek advice on the most appropriate time of year to do so and the most appropriate chemical with which to treat the stump after the plant is cut down.

Tip- fruit bearing buckthorns should be disposed of properly to insure the seeds are not spread to uninfected land. I burn them.

Negative FranG On Jan 7, 2003, FranG from Brighton, MA wrote:

One of the 10 worst invasive plants in New England and Mid-West, maybe others. Very difficult to get rid of.

Neutral Greenish On Jan 6, 2003, Greenish wrote:

A small decideous tree with separate sex. It was very hard to identify until it flowered (it has cherry- like leaves and a prunus-like bark) but it belongs to its the family Rhamnaceae. It might be grown for its foliage that turns bright yellow on fall. Flood, shade and pest-resistant.

Neutral smiln32 On Jul 31, 2002, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Tolerant of most conditions. May be invasive in some areas.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Hinsdale, Illinois
Itasca, Illinois
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Saline, Michigan
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
Liverpool, New York
Schenectady, New York
Appleton, Wisconsin
Ellsworth, Wisconsin
Waukesha, Wisconsin

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