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Holly-leaf Buckthorn
Red-berry Buckthorn

Rhamnus crocea
Rhamnus ilicifolia

Holly-leaf Buckthorn, Rhamnus crocea, photo © by Michael Plagens

Photographed in Rackensack Canyon, Maricopa Co., Arizona. July 2008.

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SHRUB: Woody, evergreen shrub from one to a few meters tall and in diameter. Fire-adapted - regrows after brush fire.

LEAVES: Oval leaves with accuminate serrations. Upper surface is shiny and the blades are often curled partially shielding the undersurface.

FRUIT: Bright red berries with usu. two hard seeds. With the holly-like leaves this makes for a very attractive plant, and indeed it has recieved attention from horticulturists. Xerically adapted varieties are possible.

RANGE: A shrub of chaparral and ponderosa zones primarily, but in well watered, partially shady canyons in the foothills of the Sonoran Desert it is an occasional component. Taxonomists have recently elevated the Holly-leaf Buckthorn subspecies to full species level: Rhamnus ilicifolia.

ARMED. The leaf spine tips are variably sharp. Unlike many buckthorns the woody stems are mostly without stout thorns (occasionally a few).

FLOWERS: Smallish cream to yellow flowers have four, pointed petals and four stamens.

Rhamnaceae -- Buckthorn Family

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2009