By Greg Tennant, Brown County Master Gardner

There are two types of buckthorn common in Minnesota. The common, or European and the glossy buckthorn.  Both are considered to be non-native invasive species. They were brought here to be used as hedging fence. The plant escaped into forests, parks, yards and windbreaks.   It crowds out native plants and competed with the native shrubs. The sale, transport and movement of these are prohibited under state law.

Buckthorn leafs out early and retains it leaves into late fall.  It creates dense shade that out-completes the native plants. Seed can remain viable in the soil for up to 5 years.  Problems with it includes:

  • serves as host to other pests, such as crown rust fungus and soybean aphid
  • creates messy fruits that stains sidewalks and driveways
  • degrades wildlife habitat
  • contributes to erosion by shading out other plants

There are several different ways to remove buckthorn:

  • Pulling, Digging or Wrenching:
    • pulling is best used on stems less than ½ in diameter.
    • stems ½ up to 2 inches in diameter can be dug up with a shovel.
    • a weed wrench may be used for plants that are hard to pull or dig, up to 2.5 inches in diameter
  • Chemical control is effective applied at the right amount at the right time.  Chemical treatments work best then plants are storing energy or dormant.  The most effective time for chemical application is mid-summer through winter   (July to March) when the plant is moving sugars to the roots or dormant.  The nature of the plants can work against them between mid-fall and early winter because their persistent leaves can be identified against native fall colors and bare branches.
  • Chemical treatments involves several methods including: basal spraying, cut-stump, injection, hack and squirt.
  • By law, herbicides may only be applied as per label instructions.  If the plant to be controlled or eradicated is not listed on the label, it is illegal to use the product on that plant.
  • Always be careful when using chemicals to protect the surrounding area.

 The Brown County Master Gardeners have available a Buckthorn removal tool for younger plants that is available to county residents.  It is available at the Brown County SWCD Office at 300 Av SW in Sleepy Eye. A form will need to be filled out to get it.

Information for this article from the USDA-NRCS and MN DNR.

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