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Rhamnus frangula - L.

Common Name Alder Buckthorn
Family Rhamnaceae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards The plant is poisonous unless stored for 12 months before use[4, 19, 76]. This report is probably referring to the bark. Do not use in cases of intestinal obstruction, stenosis, atony, inflammatory colon disease, appendicitis, abdominal pain of unknown origin. Avoid long-term use. Two weeks recommended under medical supervision [301].
Habitats Swamps and damp places, usually on moist heaths and damp open woods, preferring a peaty soil[9, 17, 21].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa, the Urals and Siberia.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Rhamnus frangula Alder Buckthorn


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Rhamnus frangula Alder Buckthorn
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Summary

UPDATE 15/3/2012: Rhamnus frangula L. is a synonym of Frangula dodonei Ard.


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Rhamnus frangula is a deciduous Shrub growing to 5 m (16ft) by 4 m (13ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 3. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from September to November. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Frangula alnus. Mill. Frangula dodonei

Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedge; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

None known

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Aperient  Cathartic  Cholagogue  Laxative  Purgative  Tonic  Vermifuge

Alder buckthorn has been used medicinally as a gentle laxative since at least the Middle Ages[244]. The bark contains 3 - 7% anthraquinones, these act on the wall of the colon stimulating a bowel movement approximately 8 - 12 hours after ingestion[254]. 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[244]. 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[254]. 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[4, 238] The inner bark is cathartic, cholagogue, laxative (the fresh bark is violently purgative), tonic, vermifuge[4, 9, 13, 21, 165]. 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[238]. It should be used with caution since excess doses or using the bark before it is cured can cause violent purging[9, 21]. Externally, the bark is used to treat gum diseases and scalp infestations[238], or as a lotion for minor skin irritations[244]. The fruit is occasionally used, it is aperient without being irritating[4]. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Rhamnus frangula for constipation (see [302] for critics of commission E).

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Other Uses

Charcoal  Dye  Hedge  Hedge  Nails  Wood

A yellow dye is obtained from the leaves and bark[4, 115]. It is much used in Russia and turns black when mixed with salts of iron[4]. A green dye is obtained from the unripe fruit[4, 115]. A blue or grey dye is obtained from the ripe berries[4, 115]. Plants can be grown as an informal (untrimmed) hedge, though they are also amenable to trimming[200]. The cultivar 'Tallhedge (syn 'Columnaris') is very suitable for this purpose[200]. The wood is used to make wooden nails, shoe lasts, veneer etc[46, 61]. It is the source of a high quality charcoal that is used by artists[4, 11, 13, 17, 100, 115, 182, 186].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Hedge  Hedge

Cultivation details

An easily grown plant, it succeeds in any reasonably good soil[11, 98], preferring neutral to acid conditions[238]. It grows well on damp or peaty soils[98]. Prefers a moist moderately fertile soil in sun or semi-shade[200]. Grows well in wet soils but not if they are water-logged[186]. Dislikes drought or exposure to strong winds[186]. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c[238]. 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[186]. The plants regenerate well after forest fires or grazing[186]. Plants flower on one-year old wood and also on the current year's growth[4]. Cultivated as a medicinal plant in S. Europe[57]. Often bears the aecidospore stage of 'crown rust' of oats[1]. The species in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. A good bee plant[4] and a main food plant for the larvae of the yellow brimstone butterfly[186].

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Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees, and Woodland Gardening. Our new book to be released soon is Edible Shrubs.

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Propagation

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[200]. 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[113]. Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, autumn in a frame. Layering in early spring[4].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Botanical References

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