I found a really cool tree wondering around the Longment Tree farm one year. I had just started Bonsai and was looking for something with a decent sized trunk. Well I found a bunch of “Fernleaf” Buckthorns sitting out in a field. Almost all of the them had some really great nebari. I did not know any thing about Buckthorns so I went home and did some research on them and decided to go back and pick one out. I spent around a half an hour picking one out and brought it home. The tree’s nebari was pretty much like looking at a lace tablecloth with nice holes in between the roots. The tree was in a pretty good sized pot and that is where is stayed for the next 8 years. I did chop it back at least once during that time frame and it was allowed to grow unhindered after that.

This tree has very narrow (wide) leaves that are about 2-3″ long. The leaves are lobbed just a little for interest. New branches when allowed to grow will produce very large leaves that will stay that way until next spring. The leaves will then revert back to the smaller sized leaves and match the rest of three. I have seen this happen repeatedly over the years. So please keep that in mind should you decide to try a Fernleaf.

Insects do not seem to bother the tree either. I have seen one or two large scales on it, but that is about it. Fall colors tend to be yellow.

I think of this tree as a poor man’s Japanese Maple and much hardier, rated cold hardy down to Zone 4 (-30). I have kept this tree on the north side of the house sitting on the ground insulated by leaves tightly packed between other trees with no damage to it at all. For the last several years it has been kept in the garage over the winter.

I did do a little wiring on it a few years ago and you can see some wiring scars on some of the branches. The wire was removed last spring (2016) and the scars are healing rather nicely with only a few left.

The nabari has filled in the years since I have owned it and is the best feature of the tree. This tree has never suckered from the roots and does back bud really well. I did loose one trunk and now it is a deadwood feature.

Buckthorn in general are unusual subjects for the Bonsai and in some areas of the US they are considered a obnoxious weed tree and should not be planted.

Common Name: Buckthorn, Fearnleaf and Alder Buckthorn
Botanical & Ecological Characteristics:

Alder buckthorn – Rhamnus frangula ‘Asplenifolia’  by Fine Gardening

Buckthorn by Dayton Nurseries

Cutleaf Glossy Buckthorn by GardenWorks

Cutleaf Glossy Buckthorn by Oakland Nurseries

Glossy Buckthorn, Alder Buckthorn, Fernleaf Buckthorn, or Tallhedge Buckthorn ‘Asplenifolia’ by Dave’s Garden

Frangula alnus by Wikepedia

Rhamnus frangula  by Ohio State University 

Rhamnus frangula by Oregon State Education

Rhamnus frangula ‘Asplenifolia’ by Missouri Botanic Garden

rhamnus frangula asplenifolia by smugmug

Rhamnus frangula ‘Asplenifolia’  – Fine-leaved Alder Buckthorn by Bluebell Nursery

Rhamnus frangula ( Asplenifolia Alder Buckthorn ) by Backyard Gardner

Rhamnus frangula ‘Asplenifolia’ – Cutleaf glossy buckthorn by UI Plants

Bonsai Information:

I have not been able to find any information on this particular tree being used as Bonsai.

Finished Trees:

I have not found any photo’s of any trees.

Progression Trees:

I will posts my tree here and will be updating its progress as it develops.

Here are some photo’s of the tree after it was styled.

After and Before Photo:

After styling photo’s:

Here are some photo’s before it was worked on for the second time. The tree had been chopped before and some wiring was done on it leaving some scar marks which should disappear with time. These photo’s were taken at the Denver Botanic Garden Friends of Pavilion Bonsai workshop led by International Bonsai Master Larry Jackel.


Check with your local nurseries.


Glossy Buckthorn ID by Outsmart Project