Common Buckthorn

Common buckthorn

(Rhamnus cathartica)

*Established in Michigan*

Report this species:

Use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) online reporting tool 

- Or - download the MISIN smartphone app and report from your phone -


Common buckthorn branch with green leaves and dark purple fruit.

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

Common buckthorn twigs up close, showing a sharp thorn.

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,

The silvery bark of common buckthorn is covered with small bumps.

Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,


  • Deciduous small tree or shrub – can reach 25 feet tall
  • Leaves are dark- green, oval and slightly toothed
  • In spring, small, yellow-green, 4-petaled flowers grow in clusters of 2-6 at the base of leaves
  • Small, purple to black fruits ripen in the fall
  • Twigs often have a single, sharp thorn at their tip
  • Distinctive orange inner bark

Habitat: Common buckthorn can be found in disturbed and undisturbed areas including roadsides, pastures, old fields and woodlots. 

Native Range: Europe and Asia

U. S. Distribution:  East Coast and Midwest, also in limited areas of California and Oregon.

Local Concern: This invasive plant spreads quickly through seeds distributed by birds and wildlife and crowds out native shrubs and understory plants. It is a host for alfalfa mosaic virus and crown fungus, and may be a possible host for the soybean aphid.


Common Buckthorn Invasive Species Alert - Printable PDF

Best Control Practice Guide for Common Buckthorn - This document provides in-depth information about common buckthorn in the state of Michigan including identification, distribution, management and control options.