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Getting rid of buckthorn...

July 23, 2009

Hello All,

I was prompted to post this by your responses to that earlier thread- anyway; my parents have around 80 acres of property and about 10-15 acres of that are distributed buckthorn (Rhammus cathartica) thickets. I've been pulling young ones up by the roots and cuttng down the bigger ones, which of course are suckering. I cut the suckers whenever I see them, but I'm wondering how often they will keep suckering. The buckthorn is distributed in riparian areas and woodland, so I'm hesitant to use any sort of herbicide (is that a valid concern?). I'm prepare for a protracted battle against these plants, but I was wondering if any of you had any advice...

One last thing; I noticed that this year they don't seem to be producing many berries (though it could be early in the season). When do they reach reproductive maturity? Maybe I should be focusing my efforts on the older trees to stem the spread?

Thanks for reading

Comments (11)

  • brandon7 TN_zone

    Wow, that's a really large area to tackle! The first thing I'd do is call my local ag extension office and ask for their opinion. Depending on how invasive the plant is in your area and your state's ag extension policies, you might be able to get some physical help as well as advice from them. It definitely couldn't hurt to ask.

    Many herbicides can be safe, if applied properly, but with an area that large, you may need some heavy-duty help. I sure hope the extension people have the answer.

  • giantslug

    Buckthorn will sucker pretty much indefinitely if it is cut repeatedly. The only really effective way to kill it is pulling it out (works with the little ones) or herbicide treatment.
    I use Garlon 4 mixed with light mineral oil (1 part G4 to 3 parts oil) on cut stumps and basal bark of buckthorn from fall to late winter. It has worked very well, I only get re-sprouting if I don't treat all the stems or if I cut and treat the stems too high up.
    I would highly discourage cutting the buckthorn without treating it, many re-sprouted stems take a lot longer to treat than a few thick stems.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Buckthorn control

  • ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

    the nature conservancy is battling this nightmare locally .. in a fen ...

    see link below.. perhaps they are in your area.. and can offer help


    Here is a link that might be useful: link

  • gclement

    Great suggestions, thanks for the help Brandon, Slug and Ken. One last question, if I use a herbicide like glycophosphate, and am very careful about applying it only to the buckthorn, is there any possibility that it will diffuse from the roots in the the surrounding soil?

    Thanks again

  • alabamatreehugger 8b SW Alabama

    Wow, sounds like Buckthorn is the privet of the north.

  • terrene

    Buckthorn is horrible. There are two invasive Buckthorn species, Rhamnus cathartica (Common buckthorn) and Frangula alnus (Glossy Buckthorn). I have lots of both growing on my 1.25 acre lot, although all the large plants have been cut, there is an incredible seedbank and the seedlings grow vigorously (Glossy Buckthorn is the worst of the two).

    10-15 acres of this stuff would make me fantasize about a large backhoe plowing through and pulling those suckers out, piling them up, and torching them! Yikes!

    There is an arborist who lives in Massachusetts who has developed some interesting equipment for killing the woody invasives, via basal bark application. He calls his tools the "Deathstick" and the "Paintinator". See link to his page at the Nature Conservancy Global Invasive Species website.

    Here is a link that might be useful: John Bakewell the Woody Painter

  • brandon7 TN_zone

    "Is there any possibility that it will diffuse from the roots in the the surrounding soil?"

    I'm guessing that you're talking about translocating to other plants through root grafts. Once glyphosate hits soil, it breaks down very rapidly. To my knowledge, there has never been a documented case where glyphosate translocated to a different species. Even translocation to other individual plants through root grafts is somewhat rare. I don't normally even consider this when applying glyphosate, but I wouldn't blame someone for not wanting to treat a stump that was in close proximity to a prized plant. Sometimes it's better to be overly cautious.

  • gclement

    Brandon and Terrene, Thanks again for the help. Some of these trees are right on a river bank so I am worried about other plants and water quality. It sounds like I can assume (and should read up more on) that glyphosate will degrade enough not to be too much of an issue. Especially since I will probably by applying a fair amount.

    Thanks again,

  • princetonfan

    greg: Here in Boston buckthorn is prevalent but not as much so as the dreadful oriental bittersweet. Do you have a problem with it up there? Bittersweet is indeed becoming the kudzu of the north. Anyone have a problem with this? It's strangling and choking many forest trees.

    terry m

  • terrene

    Gclement, I worry about the wetlands and waterways too. I wouldn't use Roundup near the water - from what I understand, it is the surfactant that is added to the herbicide that is more toxic to fish and frogs than the herbicide itself.

    There are Glyphosate based herbicides like Biactive and Rodeo that are recommended for wetlands, but not sure where you purchase them?

    Princetonfan, Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) has become horribly invasive in the Northeast. There are trees that are infested with these vines along the parkways in NY, they have become so top-heavy that they have toppled over onto cars and killed the occupants.

    My yard and neighborhood are pretty badly infested too. I've cut and used herbicide on all the large vines on my lot, but smaller vines are constantly sprouting and growing vigorously. I sometimes bring a folding saw with me when out walking and cut the large vines, at least to reduce fruiting.

  • botann

    I don't know if this has any relevance or not, but it might just work.
    There is a small tree that is native to the Pacific Nrthwest where I live known locally as Cascara, Rhamnus purshiana.
    The kids would strip the bark, dry it and sell it for 'medicinal purposes'. I was told it's the main ingrediant in Ex-Lax. The kids would strip the bark and leave the tree standing. The tree would die. If the tree was cut down, it would sprout suckers at the base and continue to live.
    Maybe this would work for your Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica. Strip the bark and leave it standing. Cut it down later after it's completely dead.

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