Spotlight on... Buckthorn

Alder Buckthorn

in partnership with Wild Oxfordshire

Hedgerows are vital for wildlife such as small mammals, farmland birds, perennial wildflowers and many invertebrates benefit from healthy, dense mixed species hedges, with few gaps. They provide a home, forage, hunting ground, shelter and routes of travel within our increasingly fragmented and intensively managed landscape.  

National CPRE is calling for Government commitment to increase hedgerow cover by 40% by 2050. The 1997 – 1999 CPRE Oxfordshire Hedgerow Survey estimated that there was approximately 7,820 km of hedgerow in Oxfordshire.   

In Oxfordshire, a 40% increase would see an additional 3,128km by 2050 – or 108km a year, which sounds ambitious. However, equally distributed across the county (there are 235 parishes in Oxfordshire), it’s only about 0.5km per parish per year, for the next 30 years!  

To the get the ball rolling, CPRE and Wild Oxfordshire are really excited to be working with the parishes of Kidlington, Watlington and the Eynsham and surrounding parishes Nature Recovery Network, to not only plant new hedgerows but rejuvenate exhausted ones. We won’t be delivering 3,138km, but it’s a start and we are hoping to create an inspiring and helpful community project template to encourage others to take action for hedgerows on their patch.  

How you can help hedges: 

•             Take part in the ‘Great British Hedgerow Survey’

•             Plant a new native hedge or fill in the gaps of an existing hedge this winter. 

•             Community Groups and schools can apply for free trees from 

•             For advice 

So, how healthy are the hedgerows in your corner of Oxfordshire? If you are surveying or enhancing your parish’s hedgerows, please contact:

With this project in mind, over the next few months, we will be directing our spotlight to some hedgerow species, starting with Purging Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn.

Purging Buckthorn & Alder Buckthorn

Oxfordshire’s hedgerows, scrub and woodlands are home to both Purging Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) & Alder Buckthorn (Frangula alnus). Both species are a fantastic resource for wildlife and are the only foodplants of the brimstone butterfly whose caterpillars eat the leaves. The flowers are rich in pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, while dense growth make both species a valuable nesting site for birds.

Where are Purging Buckthorn & Alder Buckthorn?

Purging Buckthorn prefers drier and more calcareous soils whereas Alder Buckthorn thrives in damper more acid soils. Plant both species in a south facing hedge or in a sheltered position and wait for your Brimstone butterfly population to bloom.

Have you seen Small Brindled Beauty?

If you spot any wildlife when you’re out and about, share your records and photos with TVERC. By letting TVERC know what you have seen you will help protect and improve your local environment by increasing the quality and quantity of data we hold. Photographs are always helpful too, as we keep an image gallery of species found in Oxfordshire and Berkshire.

Absence records are also very useful, so also let us know if you’ve been out and haven’t seen anything!

Your records can inform a variety of exciting biodiversity projects and help people make informed decisions about how to develop and manage land sustainably. We are a ‘not for profit’ organisation so rely on valuable help from skilled volunteers to improve our database.

Identification Help

It can be tricky to tell the two species of Buckthorn apart, so here is how to be sure:

Look at the position of the Twigs, branches and leaves: if they are almost opposite eachother then you're looking at Purging Buckthorn. If the leaves are placed alternately along the twig then you are looking at Alder Buckthorn.

Look at the texture of the leaves: Purging Buckthorn has glossy leaves are ovate with a short point at the tip. The leaves of Alder Buckthorn are matt, oval and slightly hairy. They have a rounded tip but are tapered towards the stalk.

Look at the veins on the leaves: If there are 3–5 pairs of curved veins that meet at the tip of the leaf then you are looking at Purging Buckthorn. If there are 6–10 pairs of veins on the leaves that do not curve towards the tip then you are looking at Alder Buckthorn

In winter look at the twigs: Purging Buckthorn has thorns. The buds, which have scales, are elongated and closely pressed to the twig. Alder Buckthorn does not have thorns. The buds do not have scales and are hairy.

Look at the bark: If when peeling back the bark surface reveals orange bark underneath you are looking at Purging Buckthorn. If when peeling back the bark surface reveals yellow bark underneath you are looking at Alder Buckthorn

Find out more