Frangula alnus 'Asplenifolia'
Common Name: alder buckthorn 
Type: Deciduous shrub
Family: Rhamnaceae
Zone: 2 to 7
Height: 10.00 to 12.00 feet
Spread: 6.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: May
Bloom Description: Whitish-green
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Insignificant
Fruit: Showy


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.

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.

'Asplenifolia' is an upright, spreading, deciduous shrub which typically grows 6-10' tall. Clusters of whitish-green flowers appear in the leaf axils in May. Flowers are attractive to bees but not particularly showy. Flowers give way to green drupes (1/4" across) which turn red and finally black over the period of July to September. Glossy green leaves are quite unusual in that they have the general appearance of fern pinnae: extremely narrow (to 2.5" long but only 2" wide) with irregular margins. Also sometimes commonly called fern-leaf buckthorn.


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


Shrub borders. Backgrounds.