Frangula alnus 'Ron Williams'
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


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.

'Ron Williams' is reported to not self-seed in the landscape.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Frangula alnus is commonly called alder buckthorn because it is frequently seen in the wild growing in moist soils near alders (genus 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. This plant is considered invasive in parts of the Northeast and Midwest regions of the United States. Check local laws before planting this species or any cultivars derived from it. Also consider choosing a native alternative such as common witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium), or black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa).

The genus name Frangula comes from the word "frango", meaning fragile or brittle, in reference to the tendency of the twigs of some species to break easily.

The specific epithet alnus refers to the alder genus Alnus. This plant is often found grown in moist habitats near alders.

‘Ron Williams’ 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 (F. alnus ‘Columnaris’) and its fern-like foliage from its pollen parent (F. alnus ‘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. Species plants have limited value in the landscape in large part because they can be weedy and self-seed. In contrast, seed development on 'Ron Williams' is unusual, with the few seeds that are produced being non-viable. Often found in the nursery sold under the name 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.


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