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What once was considered a beautiful landscape shrub has crossed the line and become a noxious pest. European or Common Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, was first brought to Minnesota from Europe in the mid-1800s as a very popular hedging material. Shortly after its introduction, it was found to be quite invasive in natural areas throughout Minnesota. The nursery industry stopped selling European buckthorn in the 1930's, but many buckthorn hedges may be found in older neighborhoods throughout Minnesota.
It is a small tree with shiny dark green foliage. Black berries feed wildlife in the fall and winter. It's dense branching habit takes well to being pruned into a hedge. It can be easily spotted in late fall, when all other trees have turned color or dropped leaves, buckthorn still retains it's dark green leaves.
It is not only prolific, seeding itself so rapidly that it chokes out all other plants, it is both drought and shade tolerant. These characteristics enable it to become invasive in woodland understories or at the edges of prairies or fields. It's thorny twig tips make passage through a stand of buckthorn all but impossible. The laxative properties of the seeds cause birds to deposit the seeds everywhere and quickly.
Olmsted County Rallies
Driven to eradicate buckthorn from their county, locals have formed a task force to join efforts in fighting back.
"Buckthorn is taking over the county and people need to be educated." says Norm Erickson of Rochester.
According to Erickson, Olmsted County owns over 900 acres of wooded land in the park system and it is literally infested with buckthorn. It takes over and nothing else grows. Erickson and other neighbors have been meeting regularly and through community education and with help of area master gardeners have gotten the attention of city officials. They are currently working together to create a long term strategy for control.
Tim and Susan Gossman of Chatfield belong to Prairie Smoke, a local volunteer group dedicated to prairie restoration. Buckthorn, as a non-native and invasive tree, is not considered indigenous to the native prairie and the Gossman's have worked hard to eradicate it from their restoration projects.
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