If you are ever asked by some knights in a forest to bring them a shrubbery you might perhaps like to include a small shrub by the name of Alder Buckthorn. You see, this is a delicate and pretty plant that has valuable uses for both wildlife and humans alike, for details on these uses and other interesting information, read below.
- Alder Buckthorn is a widespread but rare shrub that can be found throughout Europe, North Africa and western Asia. In Britain it is largely absent from Scotland and Ireland and is found in wet soils such as in open woods, river banks, bogs, wet heaths and hedgerows.
- Despite the name it has no thorns, which helps distinguish it from the similar and closely related Purging Buckthorn. Also despite the name it is not related to Alder, though its leaves are similar and it is often found growing alongside this larger tree.
- Both this and Purging Buckthorn are the only food-plants of the Brimstone butterfly; this attractive yellow insect is an early herald of spring and like many of its kin is not doing too well – by simply planting a Buckthorn in your garden you will be aiding conservation of this species.
- It is also of value to other wildlife – its flowers are a nectar source for bees and flies and its berries are eaten by birds in autumn.
- The bark of this shrub has been used medicinally as a purgative due to laxative chemicals found in the plant – which when fresh or in large doses can be a little dangerous so I wouldn’t recommend trying it out.
- Alder Buckthorn wood is highly prized as an ingredient in gunpowder, being the best charcoal to use as it has an even burn rate.
- The bark is also used to form a yellow dye, the berries can also be used to make a green dye.
- Frangula alnus (scientific name) is a hermaphrodite; both male and female parts are contained within the flowers of a single plant.
- It was introduced to North America around 200 years ago and has since become an invasive species that has to be controlled.