Strategies for managing buckthorn

  • 19 Jun 2023 2:53 PM
    Message # 13217040

    Is cutting buckthorn (hopefully before it goes to seed) an effective control strategy?

  • 27 Jun 2023 10:49 AM
    Reply # 13220553 on 13217040

    Hi Julie. I have been looking at buckthorn control today and found this summary from the Thames Valley Conservation Authority. It gives a good overview.

    Good luck!


  • 27 Jun 2023 9:04 PM
    Reply # 13220894 on 13217040

    Buckthorn resprouts aggressively in my experience, so cutting is best coupled with a stump treatment to prevent resprouting. Buckthorn seeds also remain viable in the soil for a few years, so retreatment may be necessary.

  • 18 Aug 2023 8:16 AM
    Reply # 13242591 on 13217040

    A few tips from my experience:

    1. Get it when it's young.   Controlling it before it gets big will save you a whole lot of trouble.  For young stems, I use a PullerBear to pull them out.  Pulling works much better in spring or fall when the ground is soft.   It's even good after the ground has frozen slightly because the frost heave loosens up the earth.

    2. Brushcutter is not very effective.   I have some areas where I went in and cut everything down with a brush cutter.   Works nice for a year, but the stumps sprout up right away.   Then if you try pulling these out, they snap off at the weak joint where it sprouted up from the stump.

    3. Treat stumps.   For larger stems, I cut them off in the spring and treat with a small squirt of roundup.   I then mark the location, so I can return to squirt it a couple more times.   Seems to work pretty well.

    4. Concentrate you efforts on areas where it will be effective.   I have certain areas where I know I have lost the battle.   So I have abandoned those areas and concentrate on areas where the stems are still small and I can easily pull them out.   I know I am preventing a future problem in those areas.

    Makes pretty good firewood in our cabin woodstove, but the smoke kinda stinks.   And the grain is beautiful, but has an odd grain structure which makes woodworking difficult.

    Good Luck.

  • 6 Sep 2023 9:42 AM
    Reply # 13250702 on 13217040
    Elliott Groen (Administrator)

    A few recent papers that came out:

    No evidence of a long-lived seedbank in common buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica L., within Minnesota deciduous forests | SpringerLink

    A takeaway from this paper: deal with the female (berry producing) plants first

    Using plants to control buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica): Improved biotic resistance of forests through revegetation - ScienceDirect

    A takeaway from this one: Following appropriate forms of treatment (see BMP guide) underplanting native vegetation can reduce the competitive advantage of remaining buckthorn seedlings and saplings in the understory. Suggestions from this study include sugar maple, balsam fir, canadian elderberry and dogwoods.

    As a side note there are some sites where for whatever reason the landowner does not want to use herbicide. I have girdled trees below the living crown there within  ~2-3 weeks after leaf out based on the findings from this paper on the seasonal fluctuations of carbohydrate reserves in buckthorn crowns which was initially published as a thesis in the late 00's ( 

    I have seen approximately 65% of girdled stems die in the first year and get the remainder by removing sprouts and regirdling lower on the stem in the second year.

    So to answer your question, cutting buckthorn can be part of an effective control strategy when combined with the recommendations provided above by Norm, Felix and Mike and some of the emerging research I shared. How you approach it will depend on your capacity and local context. Curious to hear how it is going so far?

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