Frangula caroliniana

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: Carolina buckthorn 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rhamnaceae
Native Range: Northern Mexico, southern and central United States
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Creamy green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Insignificant
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible


Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Prefers alkaline soils (add lime to acidic soils). Prefers consistent moisture. Adapts to a variety of soils and environments.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Rhamnus caroliniana, commonly called Carolina buckthorn, is a deciduous shrub or small tree that typically grows to 10-15' (infrequently to 30') tall. It is noted for its bright shiny green leaves and edible fruits. It is native from New York to Nebraska south to Mexico and Florida. In Missouri, it is typically found along woodland streams, open wooded hillsides, upland ridges, thickets and glades primarily in limestone areas south of the Missouri River and throughout the Ozarks (Steyermark). Elliptic to oblong, glossy dark green leaves (to 2-6" long) have 8-10 pairs of prominent veins and finely toothed to untoothed margins. Leaves retain green color long into fall before eventually turning an unexciting yellow-green. Somewhat insignificant, creamy-green flowers in small axillary clusters bloom in spring (May-June). Flowers are followed by edible berry-like drupes (1/3" across) which ripen to a very showy red before finally maturing in September-October to black. Birds are very attracted to the fruit. This species was originally discovered in South Carolina, hence the specific epithet. Notwithstanding the common name, this species does not have thorns or spines.

Some authorities call this species Frangula caroliniana.

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

Specific epithet means of North Carolina or South Carolina.


No serious insect or disease problems. In areas where oats are grown, this species is an alternate host of the crown rust of oats.


Possible landscape uses include hedge, privacy screen, windbreak and backdrop for perennial plantings. Naturalize in a native plant area.