Alder buckthorn

Alder Buckthorn

©Anne Tanne

Alder buckthorn

Scientific name: Frangula alnus
An uncommon tree of wet woodlands, riverbanks and heathlands, Alder buckthorn displays pale green flowers in spring, and red berries that turn purple in autumn.

Species information


Height: 3-6m

Conservation status

Protected in Northern Ireland under the Wildlife Order, 1985.

When to see

January to December


Alder buckthorn is a small, thornless tree of wet woodland, riverbanks and heathlands. It is widespread, but scarce, across England and Wales. Clusters of pale green flowers appear in late spring, and bunches of red berries ripen to a purple-black colour in autumn. Both Alder and Purging buckthorn are the main foodplants of the Brimstone butterfly.

How to identify

Unlike its relative, Purging buckthorn, Alder buckthorn is a thornless tree. It also has narrower leaves, with wavy margins and rounded tips, and red berries that turn purple.


Widespread, but scarce, in England and Wales.

Did you know?

Alder buckthorn has smooth, dark grey bark, but surprisingly bright yellow wood that was once used for making gunpowder.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.