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Home  < Management  < Invasive Species  


What is buckthorn?
Buckthorn is a European shrub that was brought into Minnesota in the 1800’s as a hedge plant. There are two main types of buckthorn shrubs, common and glossy buckthorn. Glossy buckthorn thrives in wetland and moist woodland areas whereas, common buckthorn is found mainly on drier woodland soils. While Minnesota has recently banned the nursery production and sale of buckthorn, many hedges still exist in Minneapolis’ neighborhoods and buckthorn is a dominant shrub species in our forested areas.

Why is buckthorn a problem plant?
The problem with buckthorn is that it has escaped from cultivation and has invaded wooded areas throughout the state. Buckthorn shrubs are very aggressive and completely replace the native shrub layer (understory) that grows beneath the mature trees in the forest. The dense shade provided by buckthorn eventually will cause native wildflowers and grasses to die. 

Common buckthorn leaves and fruit Leaves and fruit of glossy buckthorn

How does buckthorn spread into forests?
Birds easily spread buckthorn from one site to another by feeding on the seeds and “depositing” them as they fly to other areas.

How do you identify buckthorn?
Buckthorn is a shrub or small tree that can reach a height of 15-20 feet with a trunk diameter up to ten inches. Buckthorn leaves are generally round, pointed at the tip and have toothed edges. Long after native trees and shrubs have lost their leaves in the fall buckthorn leaves are still green. Buckthorn can be easily confused with native cherry trees, which have similar looking bark and purplish berries for fruit. Once you become acquainted with buckthorn you will be surprised how prevalent it is in the metro area.

Why is buckthorn an issue for park users?
Park visitors feel more comfortable walking through park and woodland areas where they can actually see for some distance. Dense thickets of buckthorn can reduce visibility along pathways and at intersections, decreasing park users’ sense of safety. 

How is buckthorn controlled?
Buckthorn is a very persistent plant. Park Board removal efforts consist of cutting down the shrubs and treating stumps with herbicides. Each mature buckthorn tree produces many seeds. The seedlings that result are the “second wave” of buckthorn control in forested areas. Buckthorn removal is an intensive task that is ongoing for many years.

What you can do to help 
Buckthorn is now a restricted noxious weed in Minnesota. It can no longer be sold or planted by nurseries in Minnesota. 

While there are no Minneapolis City Ordinances that require people to remove buckthorn from their property, we encourage residents to remove buckthorn and other invasive woody shrubs from their property to reduce the spread to park areas.

The Buckthorn Removal Guide was created to inform citizens about the buckthorn problem and how to remove buckthorn from their property. Download a copy from our website or call (612) 230-6400 to have a copy mailed to your home.

Buckthorn Removal Guide

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Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
2117 West River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55411
612-230-6400 (Mon-Fri 8:00-4:30) | Contact Us

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