Ecology and ecosystem impacts of common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica): A review

Kathleen S. Knight, Jessica S. Kurylo, Anton G. Endress, J. Ryan Stewart, Peter B. Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In this review, we synthesize the current knowledge of the ecology and impacts of Rhamnus cathartica L., a shrub from Europe and Asia that is a successful invader in North America. Physiological studies have uncovered traits including shade tolerance, rapid growth, high photosynthetic rates, a wide tolerance of moisture and drought, and an unusual phenology that may give R. cathartica an advantage in the environments it invades. Its high fecundity, bird-dispersed fruit, high germination rates, seedling success in disturbed conditions, and secondary metabolite production may also contribute to its ability to rapidly increase in abundance and impact ecosystems. R. cathartica impacts ecosystems through changes in soil N, elimination of the leaf litter layer, possible facilitation of earthworm invasions, unsubstantiated effects on native plants through allelopathy or competition, and effects on animals that may or may not be able to use it for food or habitat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)925-937
Number of pages13
JournalBiological Invasions
Issue number8
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Allelopathy
  • Buckthorn
  • Competition
  • Dispersal
  • Growth
  • Invasive
  • Nitrogen
  • Reproduction
  • Rhamnus cathartica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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