Common Buckthorn Rhamnus cathartica
Family: Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn)
Branching: Opposite / Sub-opposite
Other names: European Buckthorn

This European import has become naturalized in many areas, especially around cities or where land has been cleared for agriculture.  In southern Ontario it is now one of the most dominant shrubs.  It is usually opposite, but sometimes can be sub-opposite (appears alternate) on vigorous shoots.  It is often thorny, but it's not always obvious.  Often a twig will end with a small thorn at the very end.  Young bark has the horizontal lenticels typical of several other groups and as it ages, it peels in a sort of Black Cherry-like fashion.  Its black berries are often still present during the winter.  The related Glossy Buckthorn looks more similar in the summer than in the winter since it has naked buds and different bark.

Buckthorn twig, showing the typical stunted thorn at the end

Another view of the end bud

The black fruits.

Winter twig of Buckthorn

Young bark, showing the horizontal lenticels and the bark beginning to peel.

Buckthorn bark as it is peeling more.  

The trunk of a very mature Buckthorn.  

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copyright © 2008 Josh Sayers
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