Frangula alnus

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Authors: Carmen K. Converse, Global Invasive Species Team, The Nature Conservancy

Contents


5457255
Taxonomy
Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rhamnales
Family: Rhamnaceae
Genus: Frangula
Species: alnus
Scientific Name
Frangula alnus
Mill.
Scientific Name Synonym
Rhamnus frangula
P. Mill.
Common Names

glossy buckthorn, alder buckthorn, glossy false buckthorn, columnar buckthorn, fen buckthorn


Overview

Appearance
Frangula alnus is a large shrub or small tree that can grow to heights of 30 ft. (9.1 m). Its bark is gray to brown with white lenticels.
Foliage
The dark green leaves are shiny, alternate (sometime opposite) and simple with prominent venation.
Flowers
The flowers are inconspicuous, pale greenish-yellow to yellow in color and occur in clusters in the leaf axis. Flowering occurs from May through September.
Fruit
The fleshy fruit ripens from red to a dark purple or black color. You can see ripe fruit beginning about July through September.
Ecological Threat
Frangula alnus invades moist woodlands and disturbed areas throughout the Northeast and Midwest. Its rapid growth and prolific seed production make this plant an aggressive invader that can form dense thickets which shade and displace native understory plants, shrubs, and tree seedlings. This plant is native to Europe and was first introduced into the United States in the mid 1800s as an ornamental.

NATURAL HISTORY

Range:

F. alnus is native to North Africa, Asia, and Europe, except Iceland (Bailey 1976, Polunin 1969).

F. alnus occurs from Nova Scotia to Manitoba, south to Minnesota, Illinois, New Jersey (Soper and Heimburger 1982) and Tennessee (Kral 1981).

Native Habitat (Europe/Asia):

F. alnus typically inhabits wetter, less shaded, and more acidic soils than some other buckthorns (Tansley 1968). It grows in soils of any texture (Sukachev 1928). Habitats include alder thickets (Eldin 1968, Tansley 1968) and calcareous wetlands (Godwin and Bharucha 1932, Tansley 1968). Heath oak woods (Tansley 1968), pine (Kornev 1952) and spruce (Sukachev 1928) woods frequently have F. alnus in the understory. F. alnus is recommended for reforestation of degraded European sites having water logged, podzolized clay soils low in available nutrient and humus (Ziani 1957).

North America: This species was probably introduced to North America before 1800 (Wyman 1971), but did not become widespread and naturalized until the early 1900s (Howell and Blackwell 1977). They are cultivated for hedges (Wyman 1971), forestry uses, and wildlife habitat. Naturalized habitats include pastures, fencerows, roadsides, and slopes of ravines.

Reproduction:

Natural reproduction is primarily sexual; asexual means are absent or insignificant.

Plants reach seed bearing age quickly (Godwin 1936). F. alnus blooms in late May through September, after leaf expansion (Malicky et al. 1970). Flowers of F. alnus can blossom on current season's growth (Gleason and Cronquist 1963). In one known case, F. alnus bloomed and produced fruit on resprouts the same season it was cut (Brue 1980).

The subglobose drupes of F. alnus are red turning to black. They ripen in July through August and have two or three ungrooved seeds (Fernald 1950). Fruit production is abundant each year (Hubbard 1974).

Dispersal:

Fruit of both species is efficiently dispersed usually by starlings, blackbirds, woodducks, elk, mice (Ridley 1930), cedar waxwings, robins and blue jays. Mice are also seed predators (Godwin 1936). Apparently, few bird species readily tolerate the anthranquinones (emodin) present especially in the immature fruit, preventing premature dispersal (Trail and Dimond 1979). Fruit of F. alnus more rapidly falls to the ground following ripening (Godwin 1936).

The importance of water dispersal is unknown, but dry fruit of Rhamnus cathartica can float six days and seeds float three days before sinking. Fresh fruit of F. alnus floats 19 days, and dry seed floats one week (Ridley 1930). This dispersal could be significant in areas of frequent and extensive fall and winter flooding.

Horticultural distribution increases seed sources for dispersal by the above vectors.

Establishment:

Germination varies because seeds have either embryo or seed coat dormancy or both require stratification and scarification (Godwin 1936, Hubbard 1974, Tyszkiewicz and Dabrowska 1953). This variability is not necessarily consistent within a species (Hubbard 1974) such that germination could be opportunistic.

Seedling Establishment:

Although seedlings invade apparently stable habitats, recruitment is most successful where there is ample light (Leitner 1984, Kowlaski 1968) and exposed soil (Andreas 1983). In a reforestation project, F. alnus seedling success was greater in areas where previous vegetation was removed and soil cultivated, than in areas burned, lightly raked, or untreated prior to seedling (Bodeux 1958).

F. alnus seedling density is usually high near seed sources (Godwin 1936, Andreas 1983, Pauly 1983). In one invaded area, seedling density averaged almost 54 per 0.1 m2 quadrant (Brue 1980).

These buckthorns have long growing seasons, rapid growth rate, and resprout vigorously following top removal. Alteration of dormancy growth rhythms in Buckthorns is not significantly related to thermo or photoperiods (Lavarenne et al. 1971). In North America, they leaf out prior to most woody deciduous plants - in mid to late May (Malicky et al 1970). They retain leaves in late September through October and sometimes into November (Hanson and Grau 1979, Lovely 1983). Leafdrop possibly occurs earlier in open areas than in shade (Pauly 1984). In Europe, shoot growth of F. alnus appears to be greatest in the earlier part of the season (Raulo et al. 1975).

Plants of F. alnus 'columnaris' of 0.7 m in height, are capable of growing about 4 m in five years (Wyman 1971). Mature plants, cut near the base early in the season can send up sprouts up to 2 m tall in the same year (Wyman 1971, Andreas 1983, Brue 1980). In one case, a plant with stems seven to eleven cm in diameter at the base sent up to 50 sprouts following cutting (Wyman 1971).

Buckthorns rapidly form dense, even aged thickets. In an open site, buckthorn establishment is followed by lateral crown spread. This extension continues until branches touch adjacent shrubs. The large leaves and continuous canopy create dense shade. In Wicken Fen, Godwin (1936) found that a mixed sedge area colonized by F. alnus seedlings became continuous shrub carr in about 20 years. Even aged thickets are common in both wetlands and in woodland understories.

The vigor of the species is often related to light availability. It seems that seedlings F. alnus establish readily under full light. As plants mature, F. alnus shows less shade tolerance than some other Buckthorns. For example, it shades out its lower leaves and assumes a more columnar growth habit in dense thickets, while others may retain lower leaves in its own shade (Godwin 1936). Seedlings may become established, but show little growth under adult plants. Thickets may be even aged because seedlings are repressed.

Adult plants of F. alnus can be temporarily suppressed by canopy species. In a 50 year study of pine stands in Russia, F. alnus decreased in the understory as canopy cover increased. However, as pines matured and cover density decreased, F. alnus renewed vigorous growth mostly by basal sprouting (Kornev 1952).

Buckthorn affects the survival of co occurring species. Other woody plants such as Viburnum opulus L. (in Europe) and Betula pumula L. may be replaced by buckthorn, or are unable to invade buckthorn thickets (Godwin 1936, Lovely 1982).

The effects of buckthorn on herbaceous vegetation is uncertain. In Wicken Fen, dense thickets of both species altered herbaceous understory composition (Godwin et al. 1974). Cypripedium candidum Muhl. crown production decreased in the shade of woody plants including F. alnus in a Wisconsin fen (Lovely 1981).

MANAGEMENT/MONITORING

Management problems:

In addition to the above naturalized habitats, these species are problems in parts of some natural areas. F. alnus sometimes invades similar woodland habitats (Brue 1980), but more often invades wetlands that are comparable to its European wetland habitats. North American wetlands invaded by glossy buckthorn include wet prairies, marshes, calcareous fens (Bacone 1983), sedge meadows (McClain 1983, Packard 1983), sphagnum bogs (Howell and Blackwell 1977, Swink 1974) and tamarack swamps (Hasselkus 1983, Swink 1974). In these wetlands, somewhat drier conditions that are more conducive to woody plant growth, are increased by water manipulation including drainage (ditches, roads, sluices) and water table reduction (Harris and Marshall 1963, Vogl 1969, Forsyth 1974, Zimmerman 1978, Moran 1981, Lovely 1981, Gawler 1983). F. alnus is most successful under drier conditions in wetlands. In Wicken Fen of England, Godwin and Bharucha (1932) found that although Buckthorns grew in the same position relative to the water table as did mixed sedge communities, its growth was limited by high winter water levels. As drainage increased, drier conditions resulted in dominance (Godwin et al. 1974).

Other possible reasons for invasion of wetlands include:

1. Acidification of surface peat of calcareous fens (Godwin 1974).
2. Exposed mineral soil providing a seed bed (Andreas 1983).
3. Fire suppression and cessation of routine mowing (Godwin 1936, Curtis 1946, Vogl 1969, Godwin et al. 1974, White 1965, Zimmerman 1978, Moran 1981, Gawler 1983).

Composition, especially of upland deciduous woods and of wetlands may be altered because of invasion F. alnus.

This species is invasive for the following reasons:

1. They became widespread in North America when various disturbances (drainage, lack of fire, woodland grazing and cutting, etc.) created ideal habitat for seedling recruitment and maintenance of sexually mature adults.
2. Naturalized habitats are similar to indigenous habitats.
3. Seed production, dispersal and germination are effective.
4. Adult plants form dense colonies, have large shading leaves, and are persistent.
5. Plants vigorously resprout after top removal.

Cultural controls include cutting, mowing, girdling, excavation, burning, and "underplanting."

Cutting/Mowing:

Repeated cutting reduces plant vigor. In a Wisconsin calcareous fen, F. alnus, cut manually twice in one season (early June and late August) for two or three successive years, had fewer and shorter stems than a control (Lovely 1983). Growth was similar in plots cut only once a year for the same periods, but herbaceous groundcover was most vigorous in plots cut twice a year (Lovely 1983). F. alnus cut in late September may resprout the same season (Ohio) (Andreas 1983). F. alnus mowed closely (2 to 13 cm from ground) once or twice in June or July, survives as small plants (Bristol 1983) or vigorous resprouts (Brue 1980). Mowing maintains open areas by preventing seedling establishment (Curtis 1946, Godwin 1936).

Girdling:

F. alnus completely encircled at the base by a two to three cm wide saw cut into the phloem, do not resprout (Reed 1983). Girdling may be done all winter, does not disrupt the soil, nor adversely affects sensitive wetlands. A five second flame torch application around the stem will kill the cambium of stems less than 4.5 cm in diameter (Reed 1983).

Excavation:

Seedlings or small plants may be hand pulled or removed with a grubbing hoe (Kline 1983, Bacone 1983, Andreas 1983, Brue 1980) or larger plants may be pulled out with heavy equipment (Bristol 1983, Brue 1980). Excavation often disturbs roots of adjacent plants, or creates open soil readily colonized by new seedlings (Bacone 1983). This technique may be most useful to control invasion at low densities, or along trails, roads, and woodland edges.

Burning:

Presently most fire treatments do not control Buckthorn. Some data indicate limited effective use of fire management in a recovery phase. The season of a burn and vegetation of the area to be burned most influence this phase of fire management. Because Buckthorns leaf out earlier than most native species, a late April or early May burn in the upper midwest (Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan) potentially top kills Buckthorn. Because carbohydrate levels are low in roots at this time, resprouting vigor may be reduced. In a Michigan fall burn of a calcareous fen, stem density of F. alnus was twice as great the following summer than before the burn. Resprouts were one third the height of the pre burn stems (Kohring 1978).

If herbaceous vegetation exists beneath buckthorns, fire effectively top kills shrubs especially during dry weather (Godwin 1936). In most cases, however, groundcover is sparse beneath large shrubs or dense thickets, preventing fire spread unless conditions are dry and/or windy (Packard 1983). Resprouting usually follows top kill, especially in wetlands where moisture protects the basal crown (Godwin 1936).

A burning schedule to maintain vigor of native vegetation possibly prevents easy seedling establishment, unless seed sources are nearby.

If seed sources are near burned areas, fire exposed soils or peat probably are more readily invaded by seedlings than groundcover of unburned areas (Lampa 1984). In some wetlands, lack of flooding following burning has been shown to increase general woody plant invasion (Vogl 1969).

Underplanting:

"Underplanting" disturbed woods with native woody species is potentially effective to prevent primary invasion, or re invasion of buckthorns. Sugar maple (Acer saccharum Marsh.) seedlings have been planted in oak woods of the Morton Arboretum Illinois (Ware 1983), and the University of Wisconsin Arboretum (Kline 1983). Seedling success was poor in the Illinois planting. In Wisconsin, sugar maple that were 2 to 3 feet (0.7 to 0.9 m) up to 8 feet (2.4 m) tall in 1946 when planted, are 4 in. (10.2 cm) dbh (diameter breast height) and have basal areas of 0.8 sq. dm. The most invasive species in this planting has been red maple (A. rubrum L.).

Chemical:

The following table summarizes chemical treatment. Best control possible results from the following treatments:
1. Stump application of 20% glyphosate in August/September (Kline 1983).
2. Wick application of 2 1/2 3% glyphosate in May (Lampa 1983).
3. Mist application of 2.4 kg/ha fosamine (ammonium salt) in September (Niehuss and Roediger 1974).
4. Frill application of Picloram (ready to use) during the growing season (Farrar 1983).
5. Basal application of 2,4 D in diesel fuel at 2 4% (Sannikov and Tykvina 1971) or 12.5% (Kline 1983) during the first half of the growing season.

Some special features of herbicide use are as follows:
1. Without a surfactant, glyphosate should not harm non target vegetation or surrounding watersheds when used in anaerobic situations. It will degrade more slowly in anaerobic than aerobic conditions (Jackson 1984).
2. Effectiveness of fosamine (ammonium salt) may be related to downward translocation of plants preparing for dormancy (Niehuss and Roediger 1974).
3. Picloram + 2,4 D is soil mobile and probably affects non target vegetation in certain areas (Farrar 1983).
4. If 2,4 D is carefully applied, there is no known damage to surounding plants or soil fauna (Nat. Conservancy, Great Brit. 1962). Basal applications must completely encircle the trunk to be effective (Pauly 1983).

The following tables show control efforts used against buckthorn:

Trials using 2,4-D
Reference and species targeted Application Rate Application Method Application Time Geographic Location Results
Sannikov & Tykvina 1971, Rhamnus sp. 2-4% ester w/diesel fuel basal painting up to 10 cm basal diameter first half growing season USSR 100%
Pauly 1983, Rhamnus sp. 4% ester w/diesel fuel basal spray ??? WI good control if completely encircles trunk
Pauly 1983, Rhamnus sp. 4% ester w/diesel fuel stump ??? WI control
Rohrig 1953, F. alnus 0.2-0.9% ester aqueous foliar, hand sprayed Mar-Aug Germany Poor, defoliated growth reflush
Parsons 1983, F. alnus 1--1.5% diesel fuel surfactant foliar, tractor sprayer growth flush OH some control of resprouts following mowing


Trials using AMS
Reference and species targeted Application Rate Application Method Application Time Geographic Location Results
Packard 1983 aqueous as concentrated as possible stump painting year-round IL control. Best control on fresh cuts.


Trials using glyphosate
Reference and species targeted Application Rate Application Method Application Time Geographic Location Results
Lampa 1983, F. alnus 2.5-3% wick May-June IL 90-100% control.
Chapman 1983, F. alnus 10% mist bottle, stumps less than 5 cm dbh August MI control.
Chapman 1983, F. alnus 10% mist bottle, stumps greater than 12 cm dbh August MI resprouting Sept.


Trials using Fosamine
Reference and species targeted Application Rate Application Method Application Time Geographic Location Results
Pauly 1983, Rhamnus sp. 4% mist sprayer, seedlings mid-late summer WI 60-70%. Recommend for fall (Oct) application.
Niehuss, 1974, F. alnus 2.4 kg/ha mist sprayer Sept Great Britain 97.5% control after 1 year.


Trials using Picloram (25%)+2,4-D (75%)
Reference and species targeted Application Rate Application Method Application Time Geographic Location Results
Pauly, 1983, Rhamnus sp. ready to use squirt bottle stump summer WI good control

Combination:

Combined methods may increase control. In fens, Lovely (1983) suggests cutting F. alnus in the spring at leaf expansion and again in the fall, followed by spring burning the next two years. Combining cutting with herbicide use may control buckthorn when burning conditions are poor or where burning increases buckthorn invasion. Resprouts resulting from cutting or mowing probably are highly susceptible to translocatable herbicides because of decreased distance to roots, and greater absorption by young shoots. Depletion of root carbohydrates may increase transfer rates of food (and herbicides) to roots (Leonard 1963).

Biological Control:

F. alnus is an alternate host for oat rust (Puccina coronata) (Hanson and Grau 1979). Because North American insects do not readily feed on buckthorn (probably because of emodin), many host specific European insects of the Rhamnaceae were evaluated for potential Canadian introduction to control buckthorn (Malicky et al. 1970).

In England, F. alnus declined when diseased by Fusarium and Nectria fungi (Godwin 1936). An attempt to simulate this decline was initiated in Wisconsin by buckthorn inoculation of Triocothecum roseum, a fungus potentially causing root rot (Brue 1980). No results are available.

RESEARCH

Management Research Programs:

States where this is being managed and some contacts:

Illinois:
Fran Harty
Illinois Dept. of Conservation
Forestry and Natural Heritage NE Illinois
No. 8 Henson Place
Champaign, IL
217/333 5773

Wayne Lampa
Resource Naturalist Specialist
DuPage Co.
Forest Preserve Dist.
Wheaton, IL
312/790 4900

Steve Packard
The Nature Conservancy
Illinois Field Office
79 West Monroe St., Suite 708
Chicago, IL 60603
312/346 8166

George Ware
Research Director
Morton Arboretum
Lisle, IL 63502
312/968 0074

Indiana:

John Bacone
Director of Division of Natural Preserves
Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources
601 State Office Bldg.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317/232 4052

Iowa:

Donald R. Farrar
Associate Professor
Department of Botany
Bessey Hall
Ames, IA 50011
515/294 4846

Ohio:

Barb Andreas
216/292 2389

Michigan:

Kim Chapman
Department of Biology
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008
517/373 1552

Wisconsin:

Virginia Kline
Ecologist
University of Wisconsin Madison
Arboretum
1207 Seminole Hwy.
Madison, WI 53711
608/263 7344 or 608/262 2179

Wayne Pauly
Dane Co. Naturalist
Dane Co. Hwy. Dept.
2302 Fish Hatchery Rd.
Madison, WI 53713
608/266 5922

Don Reed
Principle Biologist
SE Wisconsin Regional Planning
Box 162
Waukesha, WI
414/547 6721

Resources

INFORMATION SOURCES

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Original Document

Element Stewardship Abstract; Carmen K. Converse, 2007.


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