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Just moved into a new place and this plant seems to be taking over most of the planting area and seems to be choking some of the other trees and plants around it. I'm about to aggressively prune it down but wanted to know what kind of plant it was - whether it will flower, and whether there is any reason for me not to drastically reduce it. (The thorns hurt as well)enter image description here enter image description here

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    HI MonkeyBonkey, I can't really tell much from those pictures. Can you take more that are done with more light? One close up the leaf and branch and another of the trunk? – kevinsky Apr 16 at 19:33
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I think you have a Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). The leaf shape looks right, oval-shaped and serrated with short petioles. And the thorns definitely look like buckthorn, surprisingly long and pretty sharp.

In most of the Eastern United States (which is where your profile says you are) Buckthorn is considered an invasive species, it has few natural predators here, it forms dense thickets where it gets a foothold and it's berries are not a very good food-source for birds, though they will eat it if desperate. If you find it annoying, I would suggest cutting it back as hard as you feel like, even up to total removal.

Source: http://nyis.info/invasive_species/commonbuckthorn/

  • Would protective gear, e.g. gloves be advisable, considering that the bark is poisonous and the asker may be handling a lot of it? Or is that unnecessary? – Stephie Apr 16 at 19:57
  • I was unaware of it being poisonous unless you tried to eat the thing, which I do not recommend. – GardenerJ Apr 16 at 20:06
  • Almost certainly not buckthorn. Buckthorn has a distinctive V at the top of each trunk. An easy way to tell if it's buckthorn is to scrape a little bit off of the bark - if it is NOT orange underneath, then it is not buckthorn. It actually looks more like a native plum tree in habit and leaf (and yes, they can be wickedly thorny. They also spread rhizomatously and form natural thickets). – Jurp Apr 16 at 22:33
  • I also think it is not Rhamnus cathartica. But the photos are very bad. – Giacomo Catenazzi Apr 17 at 7:24

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