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Mediterranean Buckthorn

Rhamnus alaternus

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn)
Also in this family:
Evergreen shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
150 centimetres tall
Grassland, roadsides, scrub, wasteland, woodland.

Yellow, 5 petals
A golden or yellowish-green flower spike.
The fruit is a glossy red berry. Its seeds ripen in September and October.
The thick, leathery, oval leaves are arranged alternately along the branches. The leaves measure between 2 and 6cm long. There are no thorns, unlike the similar Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Also the leaves of Mediterranean Buckthorn are larger.
The flowers are fragrant.
Other Names:
Blowfly Bush, Blow-fly Bush, Buckthorn, Evergreen Buckthorn, Italian Buckthorn.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Rhamnus alaternus, also known as the Mediterranean buckthorn or evergreen buckthorn, is a species of flowering plant in the family Rhamnaceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is commonly found in woodlands, along streams, and in other moist, shaded areas. R. alaternus is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows to a height of up to 8 meters. It has glossy, dark green leaves and small, greenish-yellow flowers that are followed by dark purple berries. The plant is valued for its medicinal properties and has been used to treat a variety of ailments, including constipation and liver problems. However, it can be toxic if consumed in large amounts and can cause negative impacts on native plant communities when introduced to new areas.


Mediterranean Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus) is a species of flowering shrub or small tree that is native to the western Mediterranean region of Europe and North Africa. It is commonly grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and parks due to its attractive foliage, bright yellow-green leaves, and small white flowers that bloom in the spring.

The Mediterranean Buckthorn is a highly adaptable species and can thrive in a variety of soils, including sandy and clay soils, as well as in hot and dry conditions. It is also very drought-tolerant and can withstand periods of water scarcity. In addition, it is a highly resilient species that is able to resist pests and diseases, making it a great choice for those who want a low-maintenance landscape.

This species is also highly valued for its medicinal properties. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems, skin diseases, and respiratory issues. Some studies have shown that compounds extracted from the Mediterranean Buckthorn have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties, making it a promising plant for further research in the field of natural medicine.

Another unique feature of the Mediterranean Buckthorn is its distinctive growth habit. It has a spreading, rounded form and can grow up to 10 feet tall and wide. Its bright green leaves form a dense canopy that provides a striking contrast against other landscape plants. The small white flowers are followed by glossy black fruit that are attractive to birds and other wildlife.

Aside from its ornamental and medicinal value, the Mediterranean Buckthorn is also considered an invasive species in some parts of the world. This is due to its ability to quickly spread and outcompete native vegetation, altering local ecosystems and reducing biodiversity. For this reason, it is important to be mindful of the potential consequences of planting this species and to only introduce it into areas where it can be properly managed and controlled.

In cultivation, the Mediterranean Buckthorn can be propagated by seed or cuttings. It can also be easily pruned to maintain its shape and size, making it a great option for topiary or shaping into a hedge. When planting, it is best to choose a location with full sun exposure and well-draining soil. Once established, this species is low-maintenance and only requires occasional watering and pruning.

In addition to its ornamental and medicinal uses, the Mediterranean Buckthorn is also used in traditional crafts. The wood of the tree is hard, dense, and durable, making it ideal for use in furniture, cabinetry, and other wood products. The wood is also valued for its deep brown color and attractive grain patterns, which make it a popular choice for decorative items.

The Mediterranean Buckthorn is also an important food source for wildlife, particularly for birds. The small, glossy black fruit produced by the tree are a valuable source of nutrition for many species, including thrushes, finches, and jays. These fruits are also highly attractive to other wildlife, such as squirrels, rabbits, and deer, which can further spread the seeds of the tree and contribute to its invasive potential.

In terms of conservation, the Mediterranean Buckthorn is considered a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, it is important to monitor populations and take appropriate measures to prevent its spread in areas where it has the potential to become invasive. This can be done through regular monitoring and control of populations, as well as through the promotion of alternative native species for landscaping and gardening.

In conclusion, the Mediterranean Buckthorn is a highly valuable species that offers a range of benefits and uses. Whether grown for its ornamental beauty, its medicinal properties, or its value to wildlife, this species is a great choice for those looking to add interest and diversity to their outdoor space. However, it is important to be mindful of its invasive potential and to take appropriate measures to control its spread.

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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