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City of Newport
596 7th Avenue
Newport, MN 55055
Phone: (651) 459-5677
Fax: (651) 459-9883

Hours: Monday - Thursday
8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

 

BUCKTHORN

What is buckthorn?

Common, or European, buckthorn and glossy buckthorn are two non-native buckthorn species found in Minnesota.  European buckthorn was first brought to the state in the mid-1800's as a popular hedging material.  However, it escaped and has become a nuisance plant, forming dense thickets in forests, yards, parks, and roadsides.  It crowds out native plants and displaces native shrubs and small trees in the mid-layer of the forest where many species of birds nest.  Glossy buckthorn is sold by nurseries in two forms, "Columnaris", which is narrow and tall, and "Aspenifolia", which grows up to 10 feet and has a ferny texture. 

Why is buckthorn problematic?

Buckthorn competes with native plants for nutrients, moisture, and light - and wins!  It threatens forests, wetlands, and other natural habitats that are home to native wildlife.  Buckthorn contributes to erosion by shading out other plants that grow on the forest floor, and can serve as a host to other pests, such as crown rust fungus and soybean aphid.   

How to Rid Your Yard of Buckthorn:

You'd like to get rid of the buckthorn bushes that have invaded your yard, creating tangled undergrowth that crowds out native plants like dogwood and wild geranium, but what is the best way?  Simply cutting the plant down doesn't work - suckers sprout from the remaining stump. Below are some methods to kill buckthorn.  (Note: below are instructions for do-it-yourselfers.  If your area of buckthorn infestation is quite large and/or you would rather not tackle it yourself, hire an I.S.A certified arborist/tree care company to handle the project).

First, a suggestion on the best place to start.  Begin by removing those bushes that are producing fruit. Look for bushes that have small purplish-black berries in the fall.  Birds eat the berries and quickly excrete the seeds, creating a reservoir of buckthorn seeds in the soil. Once you’ve removed the fruiting plants, move on to the remaining bushes. 

 

If the infested area is large, it is best to clear a small portion each year.  However, follow-up with the cleared areas each year to remove new buckthorn seedlings and sprouts.

Removing small buckthorn plants:

  • Small plants, with stems less than half an inch in diameter, can often be pulled up by hand.  This works especially well if the soil is moist and you are able to rip out most of the roots. You might also use a trowel or shovel to dig out a little bit bigger plants, digging out as much root mass as possible.  Stomp down the soil after digging or pulling to minimize soil disturbance and germination of buckthorn seeds in the soil.  NOTE: Before you pull or dig, Contact Gopher State One Call to ensure there are no buried utilities in the area.

 

Removing larger buckthorn bushes:

  • These can be cut down low to the ground with a handsaw or loppers, and the stump treated with one of the following methods to prevent it from re-sprouting:

    • Cover the cut stump down to ground level with either a tin can (open only at one end) or a black plastic baggie (such as Buckthorn Baggie). If using a tin can, choose one that is considerably wider than the stump and  push the open end into the soil and nail it firmly to the base of the stump.  If using a baggie, tie the baggie securely to the stump so that it covers down to ground level.  Leave the can or baggie in place for 1 to 2 years. Sprouts from the stump will be contained inside the tin can or baggie and will die.
    • Or, immediately after cutting, paint the top of the stump with an herbicide, either triclopyr or glyphosate. Triclopyr (in products such as Garlon 4, or Brushtox,) may be more effective than glyphosate (in Roundup, or Weed and Grass Killer) at killing buckthorn.  Carefully apply the herbicide directly to the stump with a small paint brush or with a dauber device (such as Buckthorn Blaster, Landscape Restoration Inc.).  The most effective time to kill buckthorn using the cut and herbicide method is fall.  This treatment may not be very effective in spring and summer.  NOTE: Always read and follow herbicide label instructions. 
    • Older buckthorn plants may reach the size of small trees.  If you are attempting to kill a plant of that size, drill small holes into the cut end of the stump and fill the holes with an herbicide such as triclopyr or glyphosate.

Next Steps

Each year, follow up with areas you’ve already cleared of buckthorn to remove buckthorn seedlings that have germinated from seeds left in the soil.  Often these small seedlings can be pulled or hoed out of the ground in the spring or summer.  If there are a large number of seedlings, you may want to spray with a herbicide such as glyphosate (in Roundup, or Weed and Grass Killer); follow the directions on the herbicide label. 

 

It is also very important to prevent buckthorn from re-invading by planting and maintaining  native plants in areas that have been cleared of buckthorn. Click here to read about locating, planting, and maintaining native plants on your property.