Seasons are something that you could say we are blessed with living in the northern reaches (or cursed, depending on your tastes). Through the year, we have points of high and notes of low.

Like in spring, where colorful blooms show and buzz but widespread are allergies.

Or just as well in fall, when colors inspire awe, but coffee and food is drowned in the abyss of pumpkin spice.

Come winter, we have the holidays paired with ugly knit sweaters and an exclusive concoction of egg and milk that is oddly palatable.

Moving past my humorous attempts, the point of the matter is that some things are best left to certain seasons, no matter the claims of certain fanatics, e.g., the pumpkin spice crowd.

In respect to fall, it’s worthy to note that it’s the best time of year to tackle a plaguing shrub in our forest landscape: buckthorn. That’s right, the downright pesky and intrusive invasive is at odds when cooler weather rolls in. Several reasons give to this.

For one, it becomes one of the easiest times to identify the small tree. Its leaves persist into winter, making it a breeze to pick it out of the crowd.

Second, like the rest of the plants, it pulls nutrients down into the roots for winter storage, making it susceptible to chemical treatment that has high chance ending any further growth.

So, with those two points in mind, I’m hoping to highlight just how easy buckthorn removal can be. Start by identifying, if it has green leaves still (possibly wilting somewhat) that appear glossy with prominent veins and small teeth along the edge, along with a thorn or something near to at the tip, it very likely is buckthorn.

All the more, if you see dark blackish round berries in clusters (female trees) or yellow and orange hues beneath the bark when cut, it’s probably buckthorn. If you're still not sure, a quick internet search will provide clear pictures and guides.

To treat, I’d suggest using the cut-stump method where you simply cut the shrub down at its lowest point on the main trunk and immediately proceed to paint it with Round-Up Concentrate (glycophosphate 18% or more). Note that normal Round-Up won’t do here as it’s only 1-2% potency. And that’s really it.

To make things easier, I’d suggest using food coloring or something similar to dye the herbicide so you know what you treated.

I must warn, above all things: Do not simply cut the tree and expect things solved. It will grow back with a vengeance and sprout out numerous shoots to make a thick mess that’s even harder to handle.

Last note, with the brush, consider leaving it in small piles nearby to naturally decay and provide habitat (the best option). Otherwise, the wood could be cut and burned safely in a fire pit or chipped in place.

A last option would be to contact your local municipalities and see if they have any dump sites appropriate for the debris.

Keep in mind, the best thing to do is to try not to move buckthorn around as the seeds could be transported and inadvertently spread.

Lots of resources exist online so take advantage of a little searching to fill in gaps. Just as well, contact our office as we’re here to help.

Chris Gass is is the education and outreach coordinator at the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District. Reach him at 218-384-3891 ext. 5. Information on the SWCD can be found on Facebook and at

Chris Gass
Chris Gass