Arizona Naturalists >>> Sycamore Gallery Flora >>> Rhamnaceae >>> Rhamnus ilicifolia

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.

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

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; within sycamore woodlands, it occurs on terraces and adjacent partially shaded slopes. Some taxonomists have 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, 1999-2010