Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Rhamnus crocea, Redberry Buckthorn

Rhamnus crocea, Redberry BuckthornRhamnus crocea, Redberry BuckthornRhamnus crocea, Redberry BuckthornRhamnus crocea, Redberry Buckthorn

Scientific Name: Rhamnus crocea
Common Name: Redberry Buckthorn
Also Called: Hollyleaf Buckthorn, Holly-leaf Buckthorn, Redberry, Red-berry Buck-thorn, Spiny Redberry
Family: Rhamnaceae or Buckthorn Family
Synonyms: (Rhamnus crocea var. crocea)
Status: Native
Duration: Perennial
Size: Up to 6 feet or so; (13 feet max).
Growth Form: Shrub, tree; bright green with hollylike leaves and bright-red fruits, stem bark gray, multiple branches, spreading, stiff, some branches tipped with thorns; glabrous; with terminal bud scales.
Leaves: Green; evergreen; leaves variable, obovate, ovoid or sub-orbicular, leaf margins dentate or entire; leaves with small petioles; leaf surfaces glabrous, leaf veins not prominent.
Flower Color: Yellow; inflorescence 1-6 flowered with pedicels, flowers unisexual; 4 sepals, petals 0; fruit showy bright red berries, globose.
Flowering Season: March to May, possibly again in October with ample rainfall.
Elevation: 3,000 to 7,000 feet; below 3,000 feet in California.

Habitat Preferences: Common in chaparral and in open coniferous forest; coastal-sage scrub, chaparral and woodlands in California.

Recorded Range: Rhamnus crocea is relatively rare in the United States where it is found only in Arizona and California. Although common where found. In Arizona it is occurs throughout most of state in preferred habitats. A coastal species in California. Also native to Baja California and northern Mexico.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Rhamnus crocea.

U.S. Weed Information: No information available.

Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: In North America Rhamnus crocea is listed as a Noxious Weed by the state of Iowa; The Iowa weed law (2003). Iowa Department of Agriculture & land Stewardship; all members of the genus Rhamnus, (except R. frangula) considered a Primary noxious weed. Plants included here are invasive or noxious.

Wetland Indicator: No information available.
Threatened/Endangered Information: No information available.

Genus Information: In North America there are 19 species and 28 accepted taxa overall for Rhamnus. World wide, The Plant List includes 113 accepted species names with 71 scientific plant names of infraspecific rank.

Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Utah each have 2 species of Rhamnus, California has 5 species, Nevada has 1 species. All data is approximate and subject to taxonomic changes.

There are 3 subsp. in Rhamnus crocea, 1 subsp. excluded;
Rhamnus crocea subsp. crocea, Redberry Buckthorn (AZ, CA);
Rhamnus crocea subsp. insula, (excluded);
Rhamnus crocea subsp. pilosa, Hollyleaf Buckthorn (CA, AZ?).

Comments: Redberry Buckthorn is very similar to Holly-leaf Buckthorn, Rhamnus ilicifolia. Rhamnus crocea may be used as an ornamental and is sold commercially. This species is browsed by deer and bighorn sheep.

Rhamnus crocea is used for food by North American indigenous peoples.
Cahuilla Food, Fruit, Berries used for food.
See ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

Date Profile Completed: 06/27/2016, updated format 10/02/2017
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search - (accessed 06/27/2016)
Arizona Flora, Kearney, Thomas H., Peebles, Robert H., 1960, University of California Press, Berkley and Los Angeles, California as Rhamnus crocea var. ilicifolia.
Kyle Christie, Michael Currie, Laura Smith Davis, Mar-Elise Hill, Suzanne Neal, and Tina Ayers; Vascular Plants of Arizona: Rhamnaceae; accessed on-line 27 June 2016]
The Plant List (2013). Version 1.1. Published on the Internet; (accessed 06/27/2016).
1993, The Jepson Manual, Citation: (accessed 06/27/2016),6658,6663
SEINet for synonyms, scientific names, recorded geographic locations and general information 06/27/2016).
Wikipedia contributors, 'Rhamnus crocea', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 October 2015, 20:07 UTC, [accessed 27 June 2016]