What is Buckthorn?
Common buckthorn was first brought to Minnesota from Europe
in the mid-1800s as a very popular hedging material. Shortly after its
introduction here, it was found to be quite invasive in natural areas and in
the 1930’s the nursery industry stopped selling it. However, many buckthorn
hedges may still be found in older neighborhoods throughout Minnesota. European
or common buckthorn and glossy or alder buckthorn are listed as restricted noxious weeds in Minnesota, meaning it is illegal to import, sell, or transport
buckthorn in Minnesota.
Why is Buckthorn Such a Problem?
Buckthorn invades natural areas and out-competes native
plants for nutrients, light, and water. Buckthorn has no natural disease or
insect predator to keep its population under control. It prevents native trees
from regenerating by shading out the forest floor and also contributes to soil
Healthy Forest Floor
Buckthorn Invaded Forest Floor
Do you Have Buckthorn?
Shady areas that are not mowed or actively managed may have
buckthorn. The invasive shrub is spread by birds that eat buckthorn berries.
The berries act as a laxative in birds and seeds are quickly deposited in new
Do you Want to get rid of it?
Buckthorn removal is a multi-year process. The seeds from a
buckthorn plant can continue to sprout up to six years after they have fallen
from their parent plant! Buckthorn control is possible and will benefit the
entire urban forest community.
Where to Start
The information in this document will provide you with
information on how to identify, remove, treat with herbicide and what to do
when buckthorn is gone.
How to Identify Buckthorn
One of the
most important steps in removing buckthorn is figuring out whether or not you
have it on your property! Identifying buckthorn is pretty easy. If you think it
looks like buckthorn, it probably is.
leafs out earlier in the spring and keeps its leaves much later in the fall
than other trees and shrubs.
leaves are glossy with deep leaf veins. Leaf edges have small teeth. The leaves
are almost directly across from one another and there is a thorn at the top of
Bark and Trunk
The bark of
buckthorn trees is gray in color. Older trees or larger branches have flakey
bark while younger trees or smaller branches have smooth bark with raised white
bumps. Look for yellow sapwood under the bark.
Buckthorn by Pulling
removal can be an overwhelming process. The best way to start is by evaluating
your property. Mark any valuable trees on your property to avoid damaging or
accidentally removing then. Removing and controlling buckthorn will be a
multi-year process. Do not feel like you need to eliminate it all at once. To
see the best way to prioritize your buckthorn removal, see the Buckthorn Removal Priority Chart.
the best method if:
the buckthorn is small (1.5” in diameter or less);
there is little desirable native plants in the area that may also be uprooted;
- If the
removal area is not sloped
can be pulled by hand or with a tool. After pulling buckthorn, shake the dirt
from the roots and avoid allowing the roots to contact the soil, where it may
be able to continue to grow. Make sure to firm up the soil that was disturbed
by lightly tamping it down with your foot.
Rental from the City of Farmington
tool that makes pulling buckthorn much easier is a weed wrench. This tool is
available for a one week rental from the City for a refundable deposit of $150
dollars. This is available first come first serve so please call the Natural
Resources Division at 651-280-6845 to reserve.
Method - Cutting and Herbicide
mentioned above, buckthorn removal can be overwhelming. Again, you can
prioritize your buckthorn removal by checking out the Buckthorn Removal Priority Chart
and herbicide is
the best method if:
is fairly large (1.5” in diameter or larger);
- The area
has sloped ground;
areas with many native plants that you don’t want disturbed
Fall is the best time to cut and treat buckthorn. This is the time when the sap is headed towards the roots. Also in fall, buckthorn leaves remain green after most other leaves have changed color or dropped, making it easier to identify. Cut the buckthorn close to the ground and as level as you can. Buckthorn can be effectively treated anytime except during heavy spring sap flow.
with Herbicide Immediately After Cutting
will grow back worse than before if you do not treat the cut buckthorn stumps.
It is best to treat the stumps within a few minutes of being cut. If not, the
stump may seal off and not take in the chemical. Make sure to use herbicide
with the active ingredient Glyphosate (25% or greater concentration) or
Tricopyr (active ingredient 8% or greater concentration). Make sure to read the
handling instructions before use!
Do not use these herbicides in or near water or waterways. If you will be
working near water, ask for Rodeo® or an equivalent herbicide at 25% or greater
on Herbicide Use:
are two big concerns when using herbicide, personal safety and minimizing any
herbicide damage to other nearby plants. Also remember to:
the stump within minutes of cutting. The stump will begin to seal itself off
and may not absorb the chemical if you wait too long.
read the instructions on your herbicide bottle carefully.
personal safety gear, including long sleeves, long pants, gloves and eye
aware of wind direction and any potential spray drift that could be a hazard to
yourself and others.
an arm’s length away from whatever you are spraying but hold the spray bottle
close to the stump.
spray nozzle so you can spray the stump without either missing the stump or
spattering off of the stump too much onto nearby plants.
are several disposal options for your buckthorn. Click here
to find out which
one works best for your removal project.
that you are working on ridding your property of buckthorn, you may want to
start replanting with trees, shrubs and wildflowers that are native to
Minnesota. Click here
for a list of native plants.
can I buy Native Plants?
best place to buy native plants is a store that specializes in their growth and
care. The DNR has an updated list of approved native plant venders and
landscapers, which you can view here
you have all the large buckthorn under control you can start to tackle the
little stuff. Keep an eye out for any seedlings that try to come back; it’s a
lot less work to pull out a seedling than to cut down a mature buckthorn!
luck with your buckthorn removal project and if you have any additional
questions, please contact the Natural Resource Division at 651-280-6845 or email@example.com
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources buckthorn page
Buckthorn: What you should know. What you can do? PDF