Alder Buckthorn
(Frangula alnus)


Winter twig
Winter twig


leaves and fruits

leaves and fruits

brimstone butterfly
Brimstone butterfly

Distribution map

The leaves are oval, 2-7 cm long, and are borne alternately on the twigs. They are hairless with untoothed margins. The stalk is approximately 10 mm long.


Alder buckthorn is a small deciduous shrub up to 4-5 m in height, with wide-spreading branches. It is found on moist acid soils along riversides and on peat.

The inconspicuous flowers, which have 5 greeny-white petals are borne in small clusters in the axils of the leaves. They may be seen from May-July.

The round fruits are up to 1 cm across. They are not ripe until October/November when they turn reddish, then black.


  • Alder buckthorn and Purging buckthorn leaves are the main food plant of the caterpillars of the brimstone butterfly.

  • Charcoal was used for making high quality gunpowder as late as 1946.

  • A mild laxative, buckthorn bark, can be made from the dried bark.

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