European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is a shrub that grows up to 25 feet tall. It is a European native which comes as male or female. It was brought to the U.S. in the 1840s and farmers used it as natural fencing. Unfortunately, it has no natural predators or diseases to limit its spread. It has overtaken natural and residential areas in much of Northern Illinois.
Why is Buckthorn so destructive?
Buckthorn spreads insidiously. A full-grown female plant produces thousands of purple berries. Birds eat the berries which are spread through droppings. The seeds sprout near trees and fence lines, monopolizing light and soil nutrients. Within a few years, Buckthorn shades out desirable plants in residential and natural areas. Its roots produce a chemical that inhibits growth of native plants. As a result, valuable plants are unable to reproduce, thereby decreasing your landscape’s monetary and ecological value.