Terms of flowering honey plants in the USA and Canada

According to observations of naturalists and beekeepers.

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Common name:

European buckthorn

Scientific name:

Rhamnus cathartica.

Life form:


Flowering time:

up to 55 days.

Flowering period

in Virginia for this plant is: MayJune.

25 kilograms per ha


General distribution:

Common buckthorn is not native to North America but was deliberately introduced before and during the early 1800s by colonists from Europe, primarily as an ornamental hedge plant. It subsequently escaped cultivation and has established throughout the north-central and northeastern United States and the maritime provinces of Canada.

Common buckthorn is native to Europe and the northern and western parts of Asia, from southern Scandinavia (below 61° 40') and western Siberia (56° 40') in the north to northern Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and northeastern Spain in the south. It occurs sparingly at high altitudes in northern Algeria and Morocco. Kurylo and others provide a detailed description of the distribution of common buckthorn in both its native range in Eurasia and northern Africa and its nonnative North American range.

Map of distribution and habitat in USA

This plant is present in at least 42 states/provinces in this country.

See The Map

Botanical description:

Common buckthorn is a large shrub or small tree. It is a polymorphic species within its native range, likely due to hybridization with other buckthorns. In North America, common buckthorn is described as a large, coarse shrub, often as wide as high, with many stems and many branches, or with a single main stem and ascending branches. The shrub form typically ranges from about 3 to 13 feet (1-4 m) tall, sometimes up to 16 to 20 feet (5-6 m). The tree form typically reaches about 16 to 26 feet (5-8 m) tall and 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. Common buckthorn individuals are typically less than 13 feet (4 m) tall in Canada. Mature common buckthorn plants have long, somewhat angled shoots with branches forming almost right angles with the main stem. Branchlets are stout and semirigid, 1.5 to 2 mm in diameter, and slightly flattened. Many branches end in a single, small thorn ranging from 0.2 to 0.9 inch (0.5-2.2 cm) long. Young common buckthorn bark is smooth; older bark is somewhat scaly or fissured.

Common buckthorn leaves are simple and occur near branch tips. Leaves range from 0.6 to 2.8 inches (1.5-7 cm) long or longer and 0.4 to 2.8 inches (0.9-7 cm) wide. Leaves are mostly deciduous but often remain green and do not fall until late autumn.

Common buckthorn is typically dioecious, and flowers are functionally unisexual and 4-merous. Flowers are small and inconspicuous and occur in dense clusters on branches of the current season. Staminate flowers occur in axillary clusters of 2 to 8 flowers (up to 40). Pistillate flowers occur in clusters of about 2 to 15 (up to 30). Common buckthorn fruits occur singly or in clusters. If clustered they occur at nodes on the end of short spur branches or at the base of leafstalks. The fruit is a globose drupe, ranging from 5 to 10 mm in diameter and usually bearing 4 seeds, but ranging from 1 to 5 seeds per fruit. Seeds are 4 to 5 mm long.

Seasonal development:

Common buckthorn flowers may appear with leaves. In parts of the United States and Canada, common buckthorn begins flowering as early as May. The fruits turn from green to red to black on ripening, and no flowers remain when fruits become black. Fruits may ripen as early as August but typically ripen in September in North America. The fruits were fully ripe by mid-September. The timing of flowering and fruiting is generally delayed in the western and Maritime provinces compared with Ontario.

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List of honey plants that may be blooming now in Virginia
See the entire list

Salix lucida (aka: Shining willow, Greenleaf willow, Tail-leaf willow, Whiplash willow, Pacific willow, Lance-leaf willow, Longleaf willow, Red willow, Western shining willow)

Liriodendron tulipifera (aka: Tuliptree, Blue-poplar, Tulip-poplar, Yellow-poplar, Yellow wood)

Acer saccharum (aka: Sugar maple, Rock maple, Hard maple)

Acer platanoides (aka: Norway maple)

Vaccinium corymbosum (aka: Highbush blueberry, High-bush blueberry, Northern highbush blueberry, Tall blueberry, Rabbiteye blueberry, Blue huckleberry, Tall huckleberry, Swamp huckleberry, High blueberry, Swamp blueberry)

Acer pensylvanicum (aka: Striped maple, Moosewood, Goosefoot maple, Whistlewood)

Acer spicatum (aka: Mountain maple, Low maple, Moose maple, Water maple, Plaine batarde, Fouereux)

Vaccinium angustifolium (aka: Lowbush blueberry, Early low-bush blueberry, Low sweet blueberry)

Rubus canadensis (aka: Smooth blackberry, Thornless blackberry, Canadian blackberry, Smooth highbush blackberry)

Rubus laciniatus (aka: Cutleaf blackberry, Evergreen blackberry, Slashed blackberry)

Rhamnus cathartica (aka: Common buckthorn, European buckthorn, Dahurian buckthorn)

Catalpa speciosa (aka: Northern catalpa, Hardy catalpa, Western catalpa, Cigar tree, Catawba-tree, Bois chavanon)

Robinia pseudoacacia (aka: Black locust, False acacia, Yellow locust, White locust, Green locust, Post locust, Falsa acacia, Robinia)

Viburnum prunifolium (aka: Blackhaw, Black haw, Blackhaw viburnum, Sweet haw, Stag bush, Smooth Blackhaw Viburnum, Stagbush, Viburnum bushii)

Ajuga reptans (aka: Bugle, Blue bugle, Bugleherb, Bugleweed, Carpetweed, Carpet bugleweed, Common bugle, St. Lawrence plant)

Astragalus (aka: Milkvetch, Locoweed, Goat's-thorn)

Rhus glabra (aka: Smooth sumac, Common sumac, Rocky Mountain sumac, Red sumac, Western sumac, White sumac)

Allium schoenoprasum (aka: Chives)

Brassica napus (aka: Rapeseed)

Sinapis arvensis (aka: Charlock mustard, California rape, Charlock, Corn mustard, Canola, Kaber mustard, Rapeseed mustard)

Gleditsia triacanthos (aka: Honey locust, Honey shucks locust, Common honeylocust, Sweet bean locust)

Prunus serotina (aka: Black cherry, Wild black cherry, Rum cherry, Mountain black cherry, Wild cherry)

Aronia melanocarpa (aka: Black chokeberry, Rowan, Mountain Ash, Sorbus)

Rubus phoenicolasius (aka: Wine raspberry, Japanese wineberry, Wineberry)

Prunus pensylvanica (aka: Pin cherry, Fire cherry, Bird cherry)

Asclepias tuberosa (aka: Butterflyweed, Butterfly Milkweed, Orange Milkweed, Pleurisy Root, Chigger Flower, Canada root, Fluxroot, Indian paintbrush, Indian posy, Orange root, Orange Swallow-wort, Tuber root, Yellow milkweed, White-root, Windroot, Butterfly love)

Tilia americana (aka: American basswood, Basswood, Linden)

Amorpha fruticosa (aka: Desert false indigo, False indigo-bush, Bastard indigobush, Indigo Bush)

Asclepias syriaca (aka: Сommon milkweed, Butterfly flower, Silkweed, Silky swallow-wort, Virginia silkweed)

Salsola kali (aka: Russian thistle, Tumbleweed, Prickly saltwort)

Echium vulgare (aka: Viper's bugloss, Blueweed, Blue thistle)

Brassica rapa (aka: Field mustard, Common mustard, Wild mustard, Wild turnip, Forage turnip, Wild rutabaga, Birdsrape mustard, Rape mustard)

Rubus armeniacus (aka: Himalayan blackberry, Rubus discolor, Rubus procerus)

Rubus idaeus (aka: Raspberry, Black-haired red raspberry, Brilliant red raspberry, American red raspberry, Red raspberry, Smoothleaf red raspberry, Wild raspberry, Wild red raspberry, Grayleaf raspberry)

Cirsium arvense (aka: Creeping Thistle, Canada thistle, Field thistle, California thistle, Lettuce from hell thistle, Corn thistle, Cursed thistle, Green thistle, Hard thistle, Perennial thistle, Prickly thistle, Small-flowered thistle, Way thistle, Stinger-needles)

Cucumis sativus (aka: Cucumber, Cetriolo, Gherkin)

Cucumis melo (aka: Cantaloupe, Rockmelon, Sweet melon, Spanspek, Honeydew melon, Honeymelon, Crenshaw, Casaba)

Citrullus lanatus (aka: Watermelon)

Borago officinalis (aka: Borage, Starflower, Common borage, Cool-tankard, Tailwort)

Prunus virginiana (aka: Chokecherry, Western chokecherry, Common chokecherry, Black chokecherry)

Diervilla lonicera (aka: Northern bush honeysuckle, Bush-honeysuckle, Dwarf bush-honeysuckle, Herbe bleue)