Glossy buckthorn

Scientific Name: Frangula alnus

U.S. Geological SurveyCopyright Info

Identification: Glossy buckthorn grows as a multi-stemmed shrub, which may develop into a small tree as it ages. The trunk is smooth gray-brown with brown-green branches. Leaves are oval-shaped with smooth to slightly wavy edges. They are glossy green on top and paler and slightly fuzzy underneath. Yellowish-green, five-part flowers appear in late spring and are very small and inconspicuous. The fruit is small, round, and red, ripening to black in late summer. This species is also known as alder buckthorn, aulne noir, black buckthorn, European alder buckthorn, frangula, and nerprun bourdaine.

Size: Glossy buckthorn grows to 23 feet (7 m) in height. Leaves are 2-3 inches (5-8 cm) long and 1-1.5 inches (2.5-4 cm) wide.

Native Range: This shrub is native to Eurasia.

Map Key
This map only depicts Great Lakes introductions.


Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Frangula alnus are found here.

State/ProvinceYear of earliest observationYear of last observationTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
Indiana198519892Little Calumet-Galien; St. Joseph
Michigan1933201947Au Sable; Bad-Montreal; Betsie-Platte; Betsy-Chocolay; Black-Macatawa; Black-Presque Isle; Boardman-Charlevoix; Brule; Cedar-Ford; Cheboygan; Clinton; Dead-Kelsey; Detroit; Escanaba; Fishdam-Sturgeon; Flint; Huron; Kalamazoo; Kawkawlin-Pine; Keweenaw Peninsula; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake St. Clair; Lake Superior; Little Calumet-Galien; Lone Lake-Ocqueoc; Lower Grand; Manistee; Manistique; Menominee; Muskegon; Northwestern Lake Michigan; Ontonagon; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Pigeon-Wiscoggin; Raisin; Saginaw; Shiawassee; St. Joseph; St. Joseph; Sturgeon; Tacoosh-Whitefish; Thornapple; Thunder Bay; Tittabawassee; Upper Grand
Ohio201120183Chautauqua-Conneaut; Grand; Lower Maumee
Wisconsin197520189Bad-Montreal; Beartrap-Nemadji; Brule; Door-Kewaunee; Menominee; Oconto; Peshtigo; Pike-Root; Wolf

Table last updated 9/30/2019

† Populations may not be currently present.

* HUCs are not listed for areas where the observation(s) cannot be approximated to a HUC (e.g. state centroids or Canadian provinces).

Means of Introduction: Glossy buckthorn was deliberately planted in North America for hedges and landscaping because of its hardiness and resistance to pests. It continued to be planted throughout the 1900s for ornamental purposes and wildlife habitat restoration. Initial establishment of this plant often occurs in urban or disturbed areas, but its rate of spread into natural and agricultural areas is increasing. Glossy buckthorn can sprout new stems from its roots once it is introduced to an area, and its seeds are efficiently spread by birds, elk and mice.

Status: The first known documentation of non-cultivated glossy buckthorn in North America was in southern Ontario, Canada, in the late 1890s. Populations are now considered established in the northeastern and midwestern United States. It is found in Canada from southern Manitoba to Nova Scotia.

Remarks: The sale of non-native buckthorn is now banned in Minnesota and Illinois.

Other Resources:
GLANSIS Technical Species Profile

Glossy Buckthorn (US Forest Service)
Buckthorn (MN DNR)
Glossy Buckthorn (IN DNR)

Author: Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant

Contributing Agencies:
NOAA Sea Grant GLRI Logo

Revision Date: 10/8/2012

Citation for this information:
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, 2019, Glossy buckthorn: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI,, Revision Date: 10/8/2012, Access Date: 10/13/2019

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.