Buckthorn(Frangula) - a genus of woody plants from the Zhosterovaceae family (Rhamnaceae), it should not be confused with the genus joster (Rhamnus), which belongs to the same family and is sometimes called "buckthorn".

Representatives of the genus Frangula (there are more than 30 of them) - deciduous, rarely - evergreen shrubs. They all have open kidneys, because the covering scales are absent. Most of the species of this genus are distributed in Central and South America, or in temperate regions of the Earth.

Many buckthorns in the XIX-XX centuries were tested in the botanical garden of St. Petersburg, but almost all of them were not winter-hardy and died: Karolinskaya buckthorn (F. caroliniana), rock buckthorn (F. rupestris), Buckthorn Pursha (F. purshiana), Californian buckthorn (F. californica), called "coffee berry", lemon-leaved buckthorn (F. citrifolia)... The buckthorn was more winter-hardy. (F. crenata), which has an area in China, in the southwest of Korea and Japan, but it has not survived in St. Petersburg either.

Buckthorn alder at the beginning of flowering

The only species that is resistant in Russia is alder buckthorn, or brittle (Frangulaalnus syn. Rhamnusfrangula)... Its natural range stretches from Western Europe to Siberia and Central Asia. In Central Russia, buckthorn brittle is common in all regions. It lives in the undergrowth and on the edges of deciduous and coniferous forests, among shrubs, in valleys and along the banks of rivers, lakes and on ravines, in the mountains it rises to 1700 m abs. heights. Buckthorn brittle is drought-resistant and can grow even in dry pine forests, less often on dry gravelly slopes, it tolerates sandy and swampy soils well. It is a pioneer of woody vegetation that quickly populates free areas, is distinguished by high winter hardiness and unpretentiousness.

It is known that alder buckthorn was introduced to North America, and in the late 1990s, in some states of the United States, it was named an invasive species.

Buckthorn alder, floweringBuckthorn alder, buds

This is a shrub 1-3 m high, or a tree up to 7 m high. The bark is smooth, the shoots are thin, with lanceolate white lenticels. Despite the fact that its buds are devoid of covering scales, the plant is so well adapted that it can withstand severe frosts. The foliage is alternate, or obliquely opposite. The leaves are oval, dark green, covered with reddish hairs along the veins below. The flowers are bisexual, small, narrow-bell-shaped, whitish outside, green-yellow inside, located 2-7 in the leaf axils in the lower part of the shoots. Fruits are juicy spherical drupes with a diameter of about 8 mm, first crimson-red, then black. Buckthorn brittle is a good honey plant. It settles with the participation of birds, since fruits and seeds are food for them. From the age of 3, it blooms and bears fruit.

Buckthorn alder, barkBuckthorn alder, unripe fruits

When examining the forests of the Moscow region, it was found that most often on the leaves of the brittle buckthorn one can find foci of crowned rust. Mushrooms that cause rust, only at the beginning of their development are fragile on buckthorn, later they migrate to cereal plants and end their cycle on them. Occasionally, a whitish bloom appears on the leaves of buckthorn brittle - powdery mildew.

Rust on alder buckthornAlder Buckthorn Leaf Roller

Buckthorn aphids and the larva of the lemongrass (or buckthorn) butterfly, which is widespread in Europe, often feed on the leaves. A matte yellow-green caterpillar (up to 40 mm long) appears in June. She strongly nibbles and even skeletonizes the leaf blade. The wings of a butterfly with a span of 52-60 mm, in the female they are greenish-white, in the male they are bright yellow. In addition, aspen and alder leaf beetles can be found on the leaves. When they multiply, not only the leaves are damaged, but also the annual shoots of the buckthorn brittle. Larvae and beetles of leaf beetles feed on leaves and buds. Beetles gnaw holes of irregular shape, and the larvae skeletonize the leaf blade.

The larvae of the widespread euonymus ermine moth in the spring bite into the blossoming buds, then move to the leaves and entangle the branches with a dense white web. At the end of June, they pupate in dense white cocoons.Butterflies with narrow white-gray wings (20-24 mm span) lay their eggs on the bark of the shoots. On the brittle buckthorn, leaf rollers are often found, damaging many other plant species.


Alder buckthorn is a medicinal plant. It is interesting mainly due to its medicinal properties. The bark has long been a source of laxatives containing anthraglycosides. In addition, the bark is suitable for tanning and dyeing leather. In handicrafts, fruits are used as a dye. The reddish-yellow wood is used for small crafts. Ashless coal is obtained from wood, which is necessary for the preparation of the best grades of hunting gunpowder. The shrub is used in landscaping. When propagated by cuttings, it takes root well.

Photo by the author