18/10: Shipping seed mixes and plug plants. New orders for bare root plants for delivery from November. £50 minimum order.

Purging buckthorn and Brimstone egg

Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

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Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)

Common or Purging Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica, is an upright, spiny shrub/small tree (growing to 10m if left alone), usually found in scrub and hedgerows on chalky soil. Its black berries act as what Richard Mabey in Flora Britannica describes as a "fierce" purgative. I wonder if he tried them.

Both Purging and Alder Buckthorn are the only foodplants of the Brimstone butterfly. Purging Buckthorn prefers drier and more calcareous spots than the damp loving Alder Buckthorn, however. It's also not hermaphrodite, but it can be tricky to tell the two plants apart; look for the leaves, which if in pairs on the stem mean you're looking at Common buckthorn. I guess it also looks not a million miles away from Cornus sanguinea, Common dogwood.  

Buckthorn is a good hedging plant; put one in a hedge facing South or in any sheltered position and you will find yourself breeding Brimstones sooner rather than later.

Provenance certificates are available on request for Purging Buckthorn plants, which are from the Southwest of England.
Suppliers: Perrie Hale Forest Nursery

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See our planting and size guide for details and tips on planting.

These Purging Buckthorn plants are all bare root, and are consequently available for delivery from November until March ( please ask if you are interested in pot grown plants). During the lifting season there may be up to two week's delay between placing the order and dispatching, due to weather conditions or pressure of orders, which are dealt with in date sequence. Orders for Rhamnus cathartica placed between March and September are confirmed in October ready for dispatch from November.


  • Ultimate Height


  • Ultimate Spread


  • Time to Ultimate Height

    Over 20 years


  • Type

    Loam, chalk

  • pH

    Neutral, alkaline


  • Position

    Sheltered or exposed

  • Sunlight

    Full or partial sun