Alder Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula)

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Ammonium Chloride

This page contains information regarding a plant "known to be poisonous" to goats as well as other animals. This information was researched from various resources. Please note, that the author is not a botanist or specialist regarding plants. This information is posted for your reference and comparison purposes only.

Alder Buckthorn - Click for a full size image Alder Buckthorn - Click for a full size image

Glossy Buckthorn, Columnar Buckthorn, European Alder, Fen Buckthorn

Glycosides Containing Plant - Alder buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) is a naturalized shrub or small tree that is found in parts of eastern Canada and the Prairie Provinces. This plant is found along fencerows and roadsides and in lightly shaded woodlands. Several purgative chemicals, including emodin, occur in the bark and in the purple-black fruits. This plant causes usually mild symptoms if ingested by children. There is one record of fatal poisoning of a cow (Cooper and Johnson 1984, Fuller and McClintock 1985).

Both common and glossy buckthorns are tall shrubs or small trees reaching 20-25 feet in height and 10 inches in diameter. Most often they grow in a large shrub growth form, having a few to several stems from the base. The shrubs have spreading, loosely-branched crowns. Their bark is gray to brown with prominent, often elongate, lighter-colored lenticels. The buckthorns share a very distinctive winter appearance having naked, hairy terminal buds and gracefully curving, or arched, twigs with closely-spaced, prominent leaf scars that give the twigs a warty or bumpy silhouette. Cutting a branch of either species exposes a yellow sapwood and a pinkish to orange heartwood. Both species of buckthorn are distinctive enough from other native species to be identified at all times of the year once their characteristics have been learned.

Common buckthorn and glossy buckthorn are two closely related species originating in Eurasia and were introduced to North America as ornamentals. They were planted in hedgerows in Wisconsin as early as 1849. They have become naturalized from Nova Scotia to Saskatchewan, south to Missouri, and east to New England. They are well established and rapidly spreading in Wisconsin. Although their aggressively invasive growth patterns have created problems in many areas, exotic buckthorns are still legally sold and planted as ornamentals.

All parts of the plant, especially the fruit. It has been reported and documented that goats will eat this plant voraciously with no immediate effects. It is also suggested that goats that do eat this plant in excess may develop unexplained illness and or death. Holistic methods involve using ripe Alder Buckthorn berries to produce a wormer for goats.

In documented cases, there is a latency period of 5 to 20 days after which time, the poisoning becomes rapidly progressive.

High to moderate. Severity of toxicity proportionate to amount of fruit ingested.

Documented cases pertain to cattle only. However, this plant is also poisonous to humans as well. May be toxic to goats. In one case of fatal poisoning, a cow ate large quantities of leaves, twigs, and berries of alder buckthorn. The animal quickly became ill and developed symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, slow pulse, cramps, and slight fever before death. Postmortem examination showed leaves of the plant in the stomach, with gastrointestinal inflammation (Cooper and Johnson 1984).

Diarrhea, fever, vomiting and death. Animal disease called "Limberleg": Incoordination & Ataxia.


While there are a number of holistic products that prescribe using the fruit (berries) of this plant as a wormer, it is not recommended until more research has been done. Avoid any parts of this plant to be mixed into prepared feeds or in the browse diet.


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