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What to do with buckthorn

Q. I want to remove buckthorn from my yard but I'm not sure what to do with it after it is taken out to prevent the seeds from germinating.

A. Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) remains one of the most invasive shrubs in our area mainly because of the plant's ability to reseed. Birds consider the small black fruit a delicacy and contribute to the plant's invasive spread. Because birds relish the fruit, it is more than likely that there won't be a lot of fruit remaining on the plant. Chipping the plant parts will not eliminate any remaining fruit. Burning may actually stimulate seed germination; however, continual burns can eventually lessen the number of seeds in a given area. However, prior to burning vegetation, please consult your municipality to verify local ordinances.

A good way to remove stands of buckthorn and lessen the risk of spreading the plant is to remove the plants before they flower and set seed. Buckthorn plants bloom from May to June and seeds are produced and ripen from August through September.

If you suspect that the removed buckthorn plants contain seeds, rather than compost them, bag and mark them as landscape waste and place them out with your trash. Landscape waste has been banned from landfills in Illinois since 1990; therefore waste collection companies take all landscape waste products to a composting facility. High temperatures are critical for the destruction of seeds. Research indicates that heat generated by the composting process is sufficient to kill weed seeds.