Cold Hardiness and Budbreak of Two Buckthorn Species

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  • 1 1Iowa State University, Department of Horticulture, Ames, IA, 50011-1100
  • | 2 2Iowa State University, Department of Statistics, Ames, IA, 50011-1210

Can Carolina buckthorn (Rhamnuscaroliniana) persist north of its native habitat without becoming invasive? Its distribution (USDA zones 5b to 9b) suggests that genotypes vary in cold hardiness, and invasiveness of other Rhamnus sp. has been linked to unusually early budbreak each spring. Therefore, we investigated depth of cold hardiness and vernal budbreak of Carolina buckthorns from multiple provenances and made comparisons to the invasive common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). Budbreak was recorded in Ames, Iowa, from 9 Apr. to 10 May 2002. Buds of common buckthorn broke earlier than those of Carolina buckthorn, and mulching plants of Carolina buckthorn hastened budbreak. Stem samples were collected in October, January, and April from a plot in Ames, Iowa (USDA zone 5a), of Carolina buckthorns from three provenances (Missouri, Ohio, and Texas) and of naturalized common buckthorns. A similar schedule was followed during the next winter, when two plot locations [Ames, Iowa, and New Franklin, Mo. (USDA zone 5b)], were compared, but Carolina buckthorns from only Missouri and Texas were sampled. Carolina buckthorn and common buckthorn survived midwinter temperatures as low as –21 °C and –24 °C, respectively. Provenance differences were minimal; Carolina buckthorns from Missouri were more hardy than those from Ohio and Texas only in April of the first winter. We conclude that its cold hardiness will permit use of Carolina buckthorn beyond where it is distributed in the southeastern United States. Delayed budbreak of Carolina buckthorn relative to that of common buckthorn may underscore the potential for Carolina buckthorn in regions with harsh winters and may lessen its potential to be as invasive as common buckthorn.

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