Rhamnus frangula 'Ron Williams' FINE LINE

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 4 Professionals
Common Name: alder buckthorn
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rhamnaceae
Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 5.00 to 7.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Creamy white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Rhamnus frangula is listed as an exotic invasive species to Missouri and the Midwest by the Midwest Invasive Plant Network. The species should not be planted in the Midwest where it can invade natural areas.


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers consistent moisture. Adapts to a variety of soils. Species plants will self-seed, but new seedlings are not always true. Self-seeding can occur in optimum conditions. Best propagated from cuttings. Plant 24-30” apart for a hedge that may be pruned to desired height.

FINE LINE is reported to not self-seed in the landscape.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Rhamnus frangula is commonly called alder buckthorn because it is frequently seen in the wild growing in moist soils near alders (Alnus). It is also commonly called glossy buckthorn in reference to its glossy leaves. Glossy, oval to obovate, dark green leaves (to 3” long) retain green color well into fall, usually resulting in poor fall color. Insignificant whitish-green flowers appear in axillary clusters in May-June. Flowers are attractive to bees. Flowers are followed by inedible berries that ripen in July. Berries change from green to red to dark purple as they mature. Birds are attracted to the berries and help spread them over the landscape and into neighboring areas.

Genus name comes from the Greek name of various spiny shrubs.

FINE LINE is an upright, columnar, freely branching, deciduous, alder buckthorn cultivar with fern-like foliage, few flowers and nonviable seed. It grows slowly to 5-7’ tall but to only 2’ wide. It acquires its columnar shape from its seed parent (R. frangula ‘Columnaris’) and its fern-like foliage from its pollen parent (R. frangula ‘Aspleniifolia’). Linear, undulate, deeply cut, feathery foliage is medium green, but turns yellow in fall. Small inconspicuous flowers (1/6” diameter) appear in clusters in May-June, but flowering is often sparse. Seed development is unusual, with the few seeds that are produced being non-viable. Species plants (R. frangula) have limited value in the landscape in large part because they are weedy and self-seed. In contrast, FINE LINE is neither weedy nor invasive, but is valued as a restrained and versatile columnar accent. ‘Ron Williams’ is the cultivar name, but plants are now primarily being sold under the trademark name of FINE LINE. U.S. Plant Patent PP14,791 issued May 18, 2004.


Japanese beetles, caterpillars and scale may appear. Nematodes can attack the roots. Watch for cankers, leaf spots and rust.

Garden Uses

Excellent accent for small/narrow areas of the landscape. Foundations. Borders. Backdrop for perennial plantings. Hedge. Privacy screen. Containers.