Purging Buckthorn

Rhamnus cathartica

  1. Wildlife
  2. Trees and shrubs
  3. Purging Buckthorn


Purging Buckthorn, sometimes simply known as just 'Buckthorn', is a small, spiny tree of woodland, scrub and hedgerows on chalky soils. It is widespread, but scarce, across the lowland areas of central and eastern England. Clusters of small yellow-green flowers appear in late spring and bunches of poisonous black berries ripen in autumn. Purging Buckthorn is the main foodplant of the Brimstone Butterfly in the areas where it grows, but Alder Buckthorn is used as an alternative.

How to identify

Purging Buckthorn can be recognised by its oval, finely toothed leaves and clusters of black berries.

Where to find it

Widespread in England and Wales.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Purging Buckthorn, along with many other hedgerow species, supports a range of invertebrates which, in turn, feed predators. The Wildlife Trusts manage many woodland nature reserves and hedgerows sympathetically for all kinds of species. A mix of coppicing, hedgelaying, ride maintenance and non-intervention all help woodland and hedgerow wildlife to thrive. You can help too: volunteer for your local Wildlife Trust and you could be involved in everything from traditional forest crafts to surveying for butterflies.

Species information

Common name
Purging Buckthorn
Latin name
Rhamnus cathartica
Trees and shrubs
Height: 10-12m
Conservation status