The berries of our three species of buckthorn typically ripen in this month

Buckthorn lives mainly on calcareous soils such as chalk and limestone.  It grows alongside Alder blackthorn in Alder carr. The berries taste bitter and are poisonous, dissuading people from using them in this way.

31 Buckthorn cropped

Buckthorn was widely used as a purgative. The unripe berries were used to produce a yellow dye, used to dye woollen cloth. Ripe berries produced a green dye. It is a food plant for the caterpillars of the Brimstone butterfly and several moths.

Alder buckthorn grows in wet woodland, fen and alder carr.

63 Alder Buckthorn -Jan van der Straaten

The poisonous nature of all parts of the plant have discouraged culinary uses, however its bark was used as a purgative and laxative.  Care had to be taken, as it could cause a violent reaction. The wood was used to make charcoal that was considered to be the best to use when making gunpowder.  It was cultivated at one time, particularly in Sussex and Kent, because of this value.

Sea Buckthorn grows in coastal sandy areas, dunes and shingle. It is truly native only on the east coast, from Sussex to the Scottish border.

32 Sea buckthorn

However it has been extensively planted elsewhere. The berries can be eaten in small quantities and are a good source of Vitamin C.  They have been used to make jellies and jams, but have not been a popular food plant in Britain.  In France they are used to make juice and other drinks. The berries have been used as a purgative.  An oil can be produced from the berries that is used to treat burns and eczema. The wood has been used to make charcoal.

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