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Post by wannabemountainman on Mon 13 Jul 2009, 13:57

Rhamnus frangula -

Alder Buckthorn

Botanical references11, 17, 200

SynonymsFrangula alnus - Mill.

Known Hazardswarning signThe plant is poisonous unless stored for 12 months before use[4, 19, 76]. This report is probably referring to the bark.
RangeEurope, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to N. Africa, the Urals and Siberia.

HabitatSwamps and damp places, usually on moist heaths and damp open woods, preferring a peaty soil[9, 17, 21].
Edibility Rating 0 (1-5)
Medicinal Ratingapple iconapple iconapple icon 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

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A decidious Shrub growing to 5m by 4m at a slow rate.

It is hardy to zone 3. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds
ripen from September to November. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have
both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils.
The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade.
It requires moist or wet soil.


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
The fruit is occasionally used, it is aperient without being

Other Uses

Charcoal; Dye; 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].

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
Plants flower on one-year old wood and also on the current year's
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].


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
Layering in early spring[4].


'Tall Hedge'
A dense, columnar shrub, it makes a good hedge[200]

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