Buckthorn is an invasive, non-native plant species that threatens Minnesota's natural resources. It spreads very quickly and out-competes native plants for nutrients, light and moisture. It can also degrade wildlife habitat, serve as a host for pests and contribute to erosion, among other things.
As a non-native plant, buckthorn is not used by wildlife for nourishment or habitat and interferes with natural ecosystems.
How is the city managing buckthorn?
To help manage the spread buckthorn, the city has created a Buckthorn Management Program for city properties, primarily parks, where the majority of buckthorn is found. The management plan is broken into three distinct management objectives:
- Eradication parks – minimal to no buckthorn infestation
- Control parks – higher, but manageable buckthorn infestation
- Low-priority parks – extremely infested, management efforts are impractical
The focus and emphasis of the buckthorn management program is on the eradication and control parks.
Residential buckthorn removal
The city encourages residents to remove buckthorn from their yards. By leaving it in your yard, particularly the female, berry-producing plants, there is a greater chance of it spreading through your neighborhood.
If you are unsure what buckthorn looks like, the city offers free consultations to help you identify it.
When to remove
Fall (through winter) is the best time to remove buckthorn from your yard. During this timeframe, buckthorn leaves will be green while native plant leaves will have turned color or dropped to the ground, making it easier to distinguish between the two. Also, female buckthorn plants will keep their black berries well into early winter, providing another way to identify it.
How to remove
Buckthorn can be removed mechanically or chemically. With either option, the stump must be killed, or the plant will re-sprout and continue to grow.
- Uproot/pull up the plant — Buckthorn can be pulled out by hand or with a weed wrench. Some hardware stores will rent out weed wrenches. The city also loans out weed wrenches at no cost for plants that are less than 1 inch in diameter. Contact Leah Porter at 952.928.1404 for more information.
- Cut stems to the ground and chemically treat them — Apply a chemical treatment to the stems, stump and exposed root flares soon after cutting them. The most common treatments are Glyphosate (Roundup) or Tryclopyamine (Ortho Brush B-Gon). Chemicals applied in the fall or winter months are effective because the plant is dormant, and the herbicide is transported to the root system.
Note: It is important to monitor and continue treating the area if needed since buckthorn seeds can remain viable for up to five years in the soil.
Visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' website, for more information on buckthorn control or help identifying the plant visit.
Jim Vaughan, natural resources coordinator