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Chinese buckthorn (Rhamnus utilis)

Chinese buckthorn Description: Introduced to North America as an ornamental.

Habit: Shrub or small tree that can grow up to 3m tall and is capable of forming dense colonies.

Leaves: Opposite to subopposite, stalked (5-12mm.), shiny green above, yellowish green beneath, 6-12 cm long, narrow, pointed at the tip, toothed margin with 5-8 pairs of yellowish veins.

Stems: Smooth, sharp spines between each bud.

Flowers: Small, yellowish green in color, borne in clusters at the leaf axils. Blooms from May to June.

Fruit and seeds: Fleshy drupes borne in clusters at the leaf axils, black in color, 6-7 mm. wide with 2 seeds.

Habitat: Native to China. Can be found in forests, thickets, mountains, hillsides, grassy slopes, roadsides and old fields.

Reproduction: By seed and vegetatively.

Similar species: Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), Japanese buckthorn (Rhamnus japonica), and Dahurian buckthorn (Rhamnus davurica)

Monitoring and rapid response: Prescribed burning can be used to kill seeds and seedlings in the spring. Hand pulling and weed wrenching can also be used to remove seedlings and mature plants up to 7 cm across. Cutting will result in vigorous re-sprouts. Glyphosate can be applied immediately after cutting or via stem injections.

Credits: The information provided in this factsheet was gathered from vPlants and The Morton Arboretum.

Individual species images that appear with a number in a black box are courtesy of the network ( Individual photo author credits may not be included due to the small display size of the images and subsequent difficulty of reading the provided text. All other images appear courtesy of Google (

Common Name:

Chinese buckthorn

Scientific Name:

Rhamnus utilis







USDA Symbol: