Alder Buckthorn

©Anne Tanne

Alder buckthorn

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Scientific name: Frangula alnus
An uncommon tree of wet woodlands, riverbanks and heathlands, Alder buckthorn displays pale green flowers in spring, and red berries that turn purple in autumn.

Top facts


Height: 3-6m

Conservation status

Protected in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife Order, 1985.

When to see

January to December


Alder buckthorn is a small, thornless tree of wet woodland, riverbanks and heathlands. It is widespread, but scarce, across England and Wales. Clusters of pale green flowers appear in late spring, and bunches of red berries ripen to a purple-black colour in autumn. Both Alder and Purging buckthorn are the main foodplants of the Brimstone butterfly.

What to look for

Unlike its relative, Purging buckthorn, Alder buckthorn is a thornless tree. It also has narrower leaves, with wavy margins and rounded tips, and red berries that turn purple.

Where to find

Widespread, but scarce, in England and Wales.

Did you know?

Alder buckthorn has smooth, dark grey bark, but surprisingly bright yellow wood that was once used for making gunpowder.