| Environmental Columns

Common Buckthorn and Glossy Buckthorn

The Common Buckthorn and Glossy Buckthorn are exotic, invasive plants present in Pointe-Claire. These plants were introduced in North America from Europe in the 19th century. They can easily grow in any type of soils, dry or moist. You can spot them in woodlands or open fields, in full sun or in shaded areas. To control this plant successfully, it is important to be able to recognize its features.

Common and Glossy Buckthorn stand at around 1.5 m tall and typically have a trunk size of 25 cm in diameter. There are small horizontal lines (lenticels) across their bark, which is smooth and shiny. The inner bark is orange in colour.

Common Burckthorn bark: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Common Buckthorn has small thorns at the end of mature twigs. Its leaves are oval and have a curved tip. They are finely toothed and bear three to five curved veins.

Common Burckthorn leaf: Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Glossy Buckthorn does not have any thorns. Its leaves are oval, with smooth or slightly wavy edges. They vary in size and have six to eight curved veins on either side of the central vein.

Glossy Buckthorn leaf: Chris Evans, University of Illinois, Bugwood.org

An invasive neighbour

This plant is a nuisance to surrounding biodiversity. Its leaves shade out native plant species, preventing their growth. It also alters soil composition, which is detrimental to forest survival. These plants propagate themselves easily, invading many areas until they become the only species. By eating their fruit and spreading their seeds, birds and small mammals help this propagation. Seeds can remain in the soil for up to five years, which means repetitive control is necessary to eradicate the species.

This summer, a contractor will be dealing with the Buckthorn in Terra-Cotta Park, cutting down the invasive species and replacing it with native plants. Homeowners who find Buckthorn on their property can use these two methods to get rid of it:

  • Small plants (around 1 m tall) can be uprooted, along with their roots (within a horizontal distance of 2-3 m). This should be done before the fruit appear on the tree.
  • For more mature plants (with a trunk of 5 cm or more in diameter), management entails repetitive cutting of the tree at the base of the trunk.

It is recommended to wear protective clothing (gloves, long sleeves, pants) when managing Common Buckthorn, as it has thorns. Before placing the plant in the composting bin, make sure to remove all the fruit and place them in a black plastic bag to dry them out.

Common Buckthorn berries