Noxious Weeds Profile - European Buckthorn

  • English - European buckthorn
  • French - nerprun cathartique, épine noire, nerprun puratif
  • Latin - Rhamnus cathartica L.


European buckthorn (A - flowering branch; B - branch with black berries)

Current Status

  • Ontario Weeds Act - noxious
  • Other provinces - noxious in Manitoba
  • Canadian Federal Seeds Act - no
  • U.S. Federal Noxious Weed - no
  • U.S. Noxious State Reg - Iowa


  • Pub 505 - Alternate host for the fungus which causes leaf and crown rust of oats.
  • NE Weeds - not included
  • Canadian Poison Plant - The bark and fruits contain chemicals that have a strong purgative action that can affect humans. Severe poisoning is rare (Cooper and Johnson 1984, Lampe and McCann 1986).
  • Cornell Poison Plant - not listed


  • Introduced as an ornamental shrub. Seeds are widely scattered by birds. Common in fence rows, pastures, woodland and abandoned areas.

Growth Habit

  • Perennial

Method of Propagation

  • Seeds


  • New shoots readily grow from cut stumps. Cut and chemically treat stumps in autumn. Control is labour intensive. Tops are usually cut off manually and then stumps treated with a basal bark or stump herbicide treatment. Mowing or spraying of small plants can be successful to maintain control.

Other Comments

  • Alder buckthorn is part of the same genus but is not an important host of the oat rust fungus. Crown rust continues to be a significant disease of oats with various races and the ability to mutate and make genetic advances short term successes. Single gene resistance is generally not effective. New gene stacking techniques and newer cultivar show some promise. Oat acreage is on the decline in Ontario for a variety of reasons. European buckthorn is very plentiful in all oat growing areas. Spores can travel for miles. Eradication programs of the 70's have had only marginal long term success.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300