Frangula alnus - P. Mill.
Glossy False Buckthorn
Other English Common Names: Glossy Buckthorn
Other Common Names: glossy buckthorn
Synonym(s): Rhamnus frangula L.
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Frangula alnus P. Mill. (TSN 504744)
French Common Names: nerprun bourdaine
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.146361
Element Code: PDRHA0H010
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Buckthorn Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Dicotyledoneae Rhamnales Rhamnaceae Frangula
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Frangula alnus
Taxonomic Comments: Exotic in North America (Kartesz, 1999); often treated in the genus Rhamnus as Rhamnus frangula.
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 15Feb1993
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (03Nov2017)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
United States Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New York (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Prince Edward Island (SNA), Quebec (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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U.S. States and Canadian Provinces

Due to latency between updates made in state, provincial or other NatureServe Network databases and when they appear on NatureServe Explorer, for state or provincial information you may wish to contact the data steward in your jurisdiction to obtain the most current data. Please refer to our Distribution Data Sources to find contact information for your jurisdiction.
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States COexotic, CTexotic, DEexotic, IAexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KYexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, TNexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada MBexotic, NBexotic, NSexotic, ONexotic, PEexotic, QCexotic

Range Map
No map available.

Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
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Economic Attributes
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Economically Important Genus: Y
Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: High/Medium
Rounded I-Rank: High
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Buckthorns rapidly form dense, even-edged thickets followed by lateral crown thread which continues until branches touch adjacent shrubs forming continuous canopy and creating dense shade that eliminates native tree seedlings, saplings, and ground layer species. Heavy infestations decrease the total cover and alter the species dominance of the herbaceous layer in riparian savanna. Other woody species experience negative effects on growth and seedling establishment. Although fairly widespread in the United States, particularly the eastern half, the species continues to spread into open and semi-open woodlands, but also into some upland woodlands. Management difficulty is moderate, though rapid, with limited effects on native species.
Subrank I - Ecological Impact: High/Low
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: High
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 22Jun2006
Evaluator: J. Cordeiro
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: This species is native to North Africa, Asia, and Europe, except Iceland (Converse, 2001).

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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: In North America, this species occurs from Nova Scotia to Manitoba, south to Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, and Tennessee (Converse, 2001). It was introduced as an ornamental in the Midwest as early as 1849 (Czarapata, 2005).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: Although this species was probably introduced to North America before 1800 it did not become widespread and naturalized until the early 1900s (Converse, 2001). It was introduced as an ornamental in the Midwest as early as 1849 and is now well established and spreading rapidly (Czarapata, 2005).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: High/Low

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:Unknown

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Buckthorns rapidly form dense, even-edged thickets followed by lateral crown thread which continues until branches touch adjacent shrubs (Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group, 2005). Large leaves and continuous canopy create dense shade (Converse, 2001) that eliminates native tree seedlings, saplings, and groundlayer species (Czarapata, 2005). Godwin (1936) found a mixed sedge area in the United Kingdom colonized by seedlings became continuous shrub carr in about 20 years and Godwin et al. (1974) found the same area 40 years later to still be a continuous consolidation of shrub carr but with far fewer and much larger individual crowns than were previously present. Invasion of glossy buckthorn decreases the total cover and alters the species dominance of the herbaceous layer in riparian savanna in the Allegheny National Forest, western Pennsylvania (Possessky et al., 2000; Krock and Williams, 2002).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:High significance
Comments: Invasion of glossy buckthorn decreases the total cover and alters the species dominance of the herbaceous layer in riparian savanna in the Allegheny National Forest, western Pennsylvania (Possessky et al., 2000; Krock and Williams, 2002). In Wicket Fen in the United Kingdom, dense thickets of this species altered herbaceous understory composition (Godwin et al., 1974). Frappier et al. (2003) found buckthorn basal area was inversely associated with tree seedling number, percent total herb cover, and ground-level species richness in several southeastern New Hampshire forests. In a subsequent study in the same area, Frappier et al. (2004), through direct experimental manupulation, demonstrated that >90% of buckthorn cover inhibits tree species first-year seedling recruitment with equal impact to all first-year tree species seedlings regenerating in the two stands manipulated for the experiment.

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:High significance
Comments: Buckthorn affects the survival of co-occurring species. Other woody plants such as Viburnum opulus (European) and Betula permula may be replaced or are unable to invade buckthorn thickets (Godwin, 1936). Frappier et al. (2003) found buckthorn basal area was inversely associated with tree seedling number, percent total herb cover, and ground-level species richness in several southeastern New Hampshire forests. In a subsequent study in the same area, Frappier et al. (2004), through direct experimental manupulation, demonstrated that >90% of buckthorn cover inhibits tree species first-year seedling recruitment with equal impact to all first-year tree species seedlings regenerating in the two stands manipulated for the experiment. All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans if ingested and the plants are an alternate host for the fungus that causes oak rust (Randall and Marinelli, 1996).

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Unknown

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: High

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: In North America, this species occurs from Nova Scotia to Manitoba, south to Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey, and Tennessee (Converse, 2001).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Moderate significance
Comments: Frappier et al. (2003; 2004) conclude that it is likely that this species will "continue increasing in pine forests in the northeastern U.S. for the foreseeable future". Although common buckthorn is more widespread, glossy buckthorn is particularly aggressive in wet areas (Czarapata, 2005).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: It is conservatively estimated that all ecoregions in the northeastern United States and the majority of the ecoregions east of the Mississippi River, as well as several west of the Mississippi to the Rocky Mountains, have been invaded by Frangula alnus in the United States (Cordeiro, pers. obs. May 2006 based on TNC, 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High significance
Comments: Habitat typically includes wetter, less shaded, and more acidic soils than the related Rhamnus cathartica including alder thickets and calcareous wetlands. Wetlands include wet prairies, marshes, calcareous fens, sedge meadows, sphagnum bogs, and tamarack swamps. Heath-oak woods, pine, and spruce woods frequently have this species in the understory (Converse, 2001). Glossy buckthorn typically inhabits wetter, less shaded sites than common buckthorn. It grows in soils of any texture. Habitats include alder thickets and calcareous or limestone-influenced wetlands.

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Moderate significance
Comments: The range of this species will likely continue to expand in North America, as the species is becoming abundant in open and semi-open wetlands and some upland woodlands (Catling and Porebski, 1994; Frappier et al., 2003).

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Moderate significance
Comments: The range of this species will likely continue to expand in North America, as the species is becoming abundant in open and semi-open wetlands and some upland woodlands (Catling and Porebski, 1994; Frappier et al., 2003). Although common buckthorn is more widespread, glossy buckthorn is particularly aggressive in wet areas (Czarapata, 2005).

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Fruit is effectively dispersed usually by starlings, blackbirds, woodducks, elk, mice, cedar waxwings, robins, and blue jays (Converse, 2001; Catling and Porebski, 1994; Godwin, 1936; Hampe, 2005). It appears, based on recent rangewide expansion, that American invasive populations are seed dispersed by migratory birds, as well, much like temperate European populations (which make up the bulk of the native range, have the greatest genetic variability, have expanded greatly, and have high seed exchange) unlike disjunct European populations (Iberian peninsula and Anatolia) which are dispersed by short-ranging native birds (hence populations have distinct gentotypes, declined recently, are isolated, and have narrow seed exchange over short distances) (Hampe, 2005; Hampe and Bairlein, 2000; Hampe et al., 2003). Few bird species readily tolerate the anthranquinones (emodin) present especially in immature fruit, preventing premature dispersal; although the related Rhamnus cathartica likely disperses farther and more frequently because this species retains fruit into or throughout the winter whereas fruits of Rhamnus frangula more rapidly falls to the ground following ripening (Godwin, 1936). Although the importance of water dispersal is not known, fresh fruit of Rhamnus frangula floats 19 days, and dry seed floats one week (Ridley, 1930 cited in Converse, 2001). Horticultural distribution increases seed sources for dispersal significantly as this species is known from two cultivar forms, 'Asplenifolia' (fernless buckthorn) and 'Columnaris' (tallhedge buckthorn).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:Moderate significance
Comments: The range of this species will likely continue to expand in North America, as the species is becoming abundant in open and semi-open wetlands and some upland woodlands (Catling and Porebski, 1994; Frappier et al., 2003). New Jersey has recently experienced a rapid population explosion in the northern part of the state (Snyder and Kaufman, 2004).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:Moderate significance
Comments: This species is listed as an "invasive plant of major concern" in Czarapata (2005). Buckthorns are capable of invading open, native areas, as well as disturbed areas, but as plants mature, they show less shade tolerance where seedlings may continue to establish but show little growth under adult plants (Converse, 2001; Godwin, 1936). Adults may be temporarily suppressed by canopy species. Typically, buckthorns initially became widespread in North America where various disturbances (drainage, lack of fire, wetland grazing and cutting, etc.) created ideal habitat for seedling recruitment and maintenance of sexually mature adults; but naturalized habitats can also be invaded if they are similar to indigenous habitats (little shade, open, grassy, somewhat wet, though in the drier parts of wetlands) (Converse, 2001).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Low significance
Comments: In the United States, this species most often invades wetlands that are comparable to European wetland habitats (Converse, 2001). There are genetically and morphologically distinct populations, including a distinct subspecies in the southern Iberian peninsula in Spain (the trailing edge of southern distribution in Europe), that are considered small, isolated, and progressively declining, and hence not invasive, but bordering on imperiled (Hampe, 2005; Hampe and Bairlein, 2000; Hampe et al., 2003).

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: Buckthorns generally have long growing seasons with fruits throughout (Massachusetts Invasive Species Advisory Group, 2005), rapid growth rate, and resprout vigorously following top removal. Production is abundant (Godwin, 1936), ranging between 430 and 1804 fruit per ganet in one study (Medan, 1994 cited in Frappier et al., 2004). Natural reproduction is primarily sexual with asexual means either absent or insignificant. Plants reach seed bearing age quickly and plants bloom in late May through September, after leaf expansion; although flowers can blossom on a current season's growth (Converse, 2001; Godwin, 1936). Germination varies because seeds have either embryo or seed coat dormancy or require stratification and scarification (Godwin, 1936).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: Medium

17. General Management Difficulty:Moderate significance
Comments: Adult plants are persistent and plants vigorously resprout after top removal. Repeated cutting (as well as girdling at the plant base followed with flame application) reduced plant vigor and mowing maintains open areas by preventing seedling establishment (Godwin, 1936). Seedlings of small plants can be hand removed but is only recommended for very small invasions as it may induce colonization by new seedlings (Converse, 2001; Randall and Marinelli, 1996). Most fire treatments are not effective as vigorous resprouting usually follows top kill (Godwin et al., 1974). "Underplanting" disturbed woods with native woody species is potentially effective to prevent primary invasion, or re-invasion. Some chemical treatments with application guidelines and advantages and disadvantages are summarized in Dziuk (1998) and Converse (2001). An ongoing study of herbicide treatments at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan (Cornwall et al., 2005) indicates spraying and sponge application of herbicides are to some degree effective in management so long as repeated visits and treatment follow-ups are practiced for a few years. Frappier et al. (2004) suggest initial control efforts must be followed in the second year with some effective, yet non-damaging, technique for destroying the resulting increase in buckthorn seedlings following first year buckthorn plant removal (suggest follow up of 1-2 years).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Low significance
Comments: Frappier et al. (2004) suggest initial control efforts must be followed in the second year with some effective, yet non-damaging, technique for destroying the resulting increase in buckthorn seedlings following first year buckthorn plant removal (suggest follow up of 1-2 years). An ongoing study of herbicide treatments at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan (Cornwall et al., 2005) indicates spraying and sponge application of herbicides are to some degree effective in management so long as repeated visits and treatment follow-ups are practiced for a few years.

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:Moderate significance
Comments: Cutting and mowing is clearly detrimental to native species but girdling (at the base followed by a five second flame application) has been shown to be successful and does not affect sensitive wetlands (D. Reed, Southeast WI Regional Planning Commission, pers. comm. to C.K. Converse, 1983, cited in Converse, 2001). Fire is highly detrimental to native vegetation and is not effective at removal anyway. Some chemicals have less effect on native plants (see Converse, 2001; Dziuk, 1998): glyphosate without surfactant is effective in anaerobic conditions; Picloram + 2,4-D does not damage surrounding plants only if very carefully applied in a point targeted manner, but is a major groundwater contaminent and persists in the environment;. This species is an alternate host for the oak rust fungus (Puccina coronata) (Godwin, 1936; Frappier et al., 2004) which causes significant die-back in buckthorn. Control using oak rust has been successful in Europe and should be explored for the United States. Because many North American insects do not feed on buckthorn (likely because of emodin intolerance), host-specific insects of the Rhamnaceae may serve to control buckthorn (Malicky et al., 1970 cited in Converse, 2001) but futher testing will be necessary before release approval in North America is granted; probably between 2007 and 2010 (Czarapata, 2005). In wetlands with artificially lowered water tables, restoring water to its previous levels will often kill glossy buckthorn in the area (Czarapata, 2005). Chemical control can be applied in fall to trunks when most native plants are dormant (Czarapata, 2005).

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:Low significance
Comments: As this species frequently occurs on private land, particularly grasslands, some access issues will arise and cooperation with landownders for management will be necessary.
Authors/Contributors
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Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Catling, P.M. and Z.S. Porebski. 1994. The history of invasion and current status of glossy buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula, in southern Ontario. Canadian Field-Naturalist, 108: 305-310.

  • Converse, C.K. 2001. Element stewardship abstract for Rhamnus cathartica, Rhamnus frangula (syn. Frangula alnus) Buckthorns. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, Virginia. 14 pp.

  • Cornwell, K., R.G. Corace, III, S.T. Rouser. 2005. Continued management and monitoring of glossy buckthorn (Frangula alnus) at Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Unpublished report submitted to Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Seney, Michigan, summer. 2005. 9 pp.

  • Czarapata, E.J. 2005. Invasive Plants of the Upper Midwest. An Illustrated Guide to Their Identification and Control. The University of Wisconsin Press: Madison, Wisconsin. 215 pp.

  • Deam, C. C. 1940. Flora of Indiana. Division of Forestry, Dept. of Conservation, Indianapolis, Indiana. 1236 pp.

  • Dziuk, P.M. 1998. Buckthorn and its control. Minnesota Department of Agriculture Pest Alert Fact Sheet. Available: http://www.mda.state.mn.us/appd/weeds/buckthornfactsheet.pdf. Accessed May 2006.

  • Frappier, B., R.T. Eckert, and T.D. Lee. 2003. Potential impacts of the invasive exotic shrub Rhamnus frangula L. (glossy buckthorn) on forests of southern New Hampshire. Northeastern Naturalist, 10(3): 277-296.

  • Frappier, B., R.T. Eckert, and T.D. Lee. 2004. Experimental removal of the non-indigenous shrub Rhamnus frangula (Glossy buckthorn): effects on native herbs and woody seedlings. Northeastern Naturalist, 11(3): 333-342.

  • Godwin, H. 1936. Studies in the ecology of Wicken Fen: III. The establishment and development of fen scrub (Carr). The Journal of Ecology, 24(1): 82-116.

  • Godwin, H., D.R. Clowes, and B. Huntley. 1974. Studies in the ecology of Wicken Fen: V. Development of Fen Charr. The Journal of Ecology, 62(1): 197-214.

  • Hampe, A. 2005. Fecundity limits in Frangula alnus (Rhamnaceae) relict populations at the species' southern range margin. Oecologia, 143: 377-386.

  • Hampe, A. and F. Bairlein. 2000. Modified dispersal-related traits in disjunct populations of bird-dispersed Frangula alnus (Rhamnaceae): a result of its Quaternary distribution shifts? Ecography, 23(5): 603-613.

  • Hampe, A., J. Arroyo, P. Jordano, and R.J. Petit. 2003. Rangewide phylogeography of a bird-dispersed Eurasian shrub: contrasting Mediterranean and temperate glacial refugia. Molecular Ecology, 12: 3415-3426.

  • Herbarium, Department of Botany, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1996. Species distribution data at state and province level for vascular plant taxa of the United States, Canada, and Greenland (accepted records), from unpublished data files at the North Carolina Botanical Garden, December, 1996.

  • Krock, S.L. and C.E. Williams. 2002. Allelopathic potential of the alien shrub glossy buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula L.: a laboratory bioassay. Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science, 76: 17-21.

  • Little, E.L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agriculture Handbook No. 541. U.S. Forest Service, Washington, D.C. 375 pp.

  • Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG). 2005. Strategic recommendations for managing invasive plants in Massachusetts. Final Report Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group, 28 February 2005. 23 pp.

  • Possessky, S.L., C.E. Williams, and W.J. Moriarity. 2000. Glossy buckthorn, Rhamnus frangula: a threat to riparian plant communities of the northern Allegheny Plateau. Natural Areas Journal, 20: 290-292.

  • Randall, J.M. and J. Marinelli (eds.) 1996. Invasive Plants: Weeds of the Global Garden. Brooklyn Botanic Garden: New York. 111 pp.

  • Scoggan, H.J. 1978. The Flora of Canada. National Museum of Natural Sciences, National Museum of Canada, Publ. in Botany 7(4).

  • Swink, F., and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region. Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.

  • Synder, D. and S.R. Kaufman. 2004. An overview of nonindigenous plant species in New Jersey. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Parks and Forestry, Office of Natural Lands Management, Natural Heritage Program, Trenton, New Jersey. 107 pp.

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • Weber, W. A. and R. C. Wittmann. 1992. Catalog of The Colorado Flora: A Biodiversity Baseline. University Press of Colorado, Niwot, CO.

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