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Toxic parts

The plant is poisonous unless stored for 12 months before use[1][2][3]. This report is probably referring to the bark.

Edible uses

There are no edible uses listed for Rhamnus frangula.

Material uses

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and bark[1][4]. It is much used in Russia and turns black when mixed with salts of iron[1].

A green dye is obtained from the unripe fruit[1][4]. A blue or grey dye is obtained from the ripe berries[1][4]. Plants can be grown as an informal (untrimmed) hedge, though they are also amenable to trimming[5]. The cultivar 'Tallhedge (syn 'Columnaris') is very suitable for this purpose[5].

The wood is used to make wooden nails, shoe lasts, veneer etc[6][7]. It is the source of a high quality charcoal that is used by artists[1][8][9][10][11][4][12][13].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Alder buckthorn has been used medicinally as a gentle laxative since at least the Middle Ages[14]. The bark contains 3 - 7% anthraquinones, these act on the wall of the colon stimulating a bowel movement approximately 8 - 12 hours after ingestion[15]. It is so gentle and effective a treatment when prescribed in the correct dosages that it is completely safe to use for children and pregnant women[14]. The bark also contains anthrones and anthranols, these induce vomiting but the severity of their effect is greatly reduced after the bark has been dried and stored for a long time[15]. The bark is harvested in early summer from the young trunk and moderately sized branches, it must then be dried and stored for at least 12 months before being used[1][16]

The inner bark is cathartic, cholagogue, laxative (the fresh bark is violently purgative), tonic, vermifuge[1][17][9][18][19]. It is taken internally as a laxative for chronic atonic constipation and is also used to treat abdominal bloating, hepatitis, cirrhosis, jaundice, and liver and gall bladder complaints[16]. It should be used with caution since excess doses or using the bark before it is cured can cause violent purging[17][18]. Externally, the bark is used to treat gum diseases and scalp infestations[16], or as a lotion for minor skin irritations[14].

The fruit is occasionally used, it is aperient without being irritating[1].


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions



Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed will require 1 - 2 months cold stratification at about 5° and should be sown as early in the year as possible in a cold frame or outdoor seedbed[5]. Germination is usually good, at least 80% by late spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.

Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame[20]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, autumn in a frame.

Layering in early spring[1].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Rhamnus frangula. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any reasonably good soil[8][21], preferring neutral to acid conditions[16]. It grows well on damp or peaty soils[21]. Prefers a moist moderately fertile soil in sun or semi-shade[5]. Grows well in wet soils but not if they are water-logged[13]. Dislikes drought or exposure to strong winds[13].

Plants are hardy to at least -15°c[16]. Alder buckthorn is a slow-growing plant, though it coppices well. It was at one time often grown for its wood which was used in making charcoal[13]. The plants regenerate well after forest fires or grazing[13]. Plants flower on one-year old wood and also on the current year's growth[1]. Cultivated as a medicinal plant in S. Europe[22]. Often bears the aecidospore stage of 'crown rust' of oats[23]. The species in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[5].

A good bee plant[1] and a main food plant for the larvae of the yellow brimstone butterfly[13].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Rhamnus frangula. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Rhamnus frangula.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Rhamnus frangula
Imported References
Edible uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    5 x 4 meters
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


    1. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    2. ? Stary. F. Poisonous Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-35666-3 (1983-00-00)
    3. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (1984-00-00)
    4. ? Johnson. C. P. The Useful Plants of Great Britain. ()
    5. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.1 Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    7. ? 7.07.1 Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    8. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
    9. ? Triska. Dr. Hamlyn Encyclopaedia of Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-33545-3 (1975-00-00)
    10. ? Clapham, Tootin and Warburg. Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press (1962-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.1 Polunin. O. Flowers of Europe - A Field Guide. Oxford University Press ISBN 0192176218 (1969-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray ISBN 0-7195-5043-2 (1992-00-00)
    13. ? Beckett. G. and K. Planting Native Trees and Shrubs. Jarrold (1979-00-00)
    14. ? Phillips. R. & Foy. N. Herbs Pan Books Ltd. London. ISBN 0-330-30725-8 (1990-00-00)
    15. ? Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London ISBN 9-780751-303148 (1996-00-00)
    16. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    17. ? Launert. E. Edible and Medicinal Plants. Hamlyn ISBN 0-600-37216-2 (1981-00-00)
    18. ? Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books ISBN 0-553-23827-2 (1983-00-00)
    19. ? 19.019.1 Mills. S. Y. The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism. ()
    20. ? Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
    21. ? 21.021.1 Gordon. A. G. and Rowe. D. C. f. Seed Manual for Ornamental Trees and Shrubs. ()
    22. ? Schery. R. W. Plants for Man. ()
    23. ? F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press (1951-00-00)