Forestry organizations offer tips for removing buckthorn

Fall and winter treatments differ from those of spring

Common buckthorn. Photo by S. Kelly Kearns courtesy of Wisconsin DNR.

MADISON, Wis. – Forest landowners in the Lake States should prepare to recheck their forest property for common and glossy buckthorn, according to state forestry organizations.

While cutting back these destructive, invasive species early in the year can prevent seed production and limit reproduction and spreading, fall and winter provide opportunities to use different tactics to eradicate some of the population.

Common buckthorn invades the understory of oak, beech, maple and riparian woods, while glossy buckthorn is more commonly found among alder, wetlands, heath oak, pine woods and spruce woods, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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Glossy buckthorn. Photo by Gil Wojciech Kearns courtesy of

Smaller seedlings (less than 3 feet tall) generally can be pulled by hand, but larger saplings may require a tool or will need to be cut. Trunks generally need to be treated with herbicide or removed.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources suggests that herbicide applications after cutting or girdling “appear to be most effective,” and it recommends a “systemic herbicide, such as a glyphosate, in order to destroy the root system.”

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Common buckthorn. Photo by Jan Samanek courtesy of

Buckthorn in tree or shrub form grows to 10-25 feet tall. Cutting a stem will reveal yellow sapwood and orange heartwood. Common buckthorn produces small black fruit in the fall and displays yellow green flowers in the spring.

More detailed information is available in these fact sheets from the Wisconsin DNR:

And from the Pennsylvania DCNR:

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