- Botanical name: Rhamnus cathartica
- Common name: Purging buckthorn
- Family: Rhamnaceae
- Plant Type: Shrub, Tree, Deciduous
- Key features:
- Attractive to wildlife
Purging buckthorn is a small tree, often used as a shrub or hedging plant, which is native to England and Wales and much of Europe. It has grey-brown bark and spiny branches, and glossy, dark green, toothed leaves, which turn yellow before falling in autumn. Purging buckthorn is dioceous, meaning its yellow-green, male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. After pollination the female flowers develop into slightly poisonous black berries. Indeed, purging buckthorn is so named due to its traditional use as a laxative, thanks to the purgative effects of eating the berries. It can grow to an eventual height of 10m.
It’s very closely related to alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), which is thornless.
In the United States of America, purging buckthorn is highly invasive. However, in Britain, being native, it has no such problems. What’s more, purging buckthorn is a fantastic wildlife plant – its leave are used as a caterpillar food plant by the brimstone butterfly, its flowers are visited by pollinators and its berries are eaten by birds. It makes a fantastic addition to a wildlife hedge.
Where to buy purging buckthorn
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How to grow Rhamnus cathartica
- Sun exposure: Dappled shade, full sun, partial shade
- Shade type: Damp
- Soil type: Acidic / chalky / alkaline / clay / heavy / moist / well drained / light / sandy
Rhamnus cathartica and wildlife
Rhamnus cathartica is known for attracting bees, beneficial insects, birds, butterflies/moths and other pollinators. It is a caterpillar food plant, has nectar/pollen rich flowers, provides shelter and habitat, has seeds for birds and makes a good wildlife hedge.
Attractive to Bees
Attractive to Beneficial insects
Attractive to Birds
Attractive to Butterflies/Moths
Attractive to Other pollinators
Is Rhamnus cathartica poisonous?
Rhamnus cathartica causes an upset stomach. Its foliage and fruit are toxic.
Toxic to Cats
Toxic to Dogs
Toxic to Horses
Toxic to Livestock
Toxic to People
No reported toxicity to Birds