Buckthorn Family

California Coffeeberry © AFengler

Rhamnaceae (ram-NA-see-ee)

Iconic Features

  • Small trees or woody shrubs
  • Small numerous flowers in tight clusters
  • Simple leaves with curved, pinnate veins

Description (Jepson)

  • Eudicotyledons (eudicots) – a major lineage of flowering plants including most plants traditionally described as dicots and generally characterized by
    • 2 seed leaves (dicotyledon)
    • Netted (reticulate) leaf venation
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Pollen grains with 3 pores (tricolpate)
    • Vascular bundles in stem arranged in a ring
    • Taproot system
  • Usually small trees or woody shrubs
  • Leaves
    • Simple (not divided into leaflets)
    • Veins are curved and pinnate (arranged along a common axis like a feather)
    • Usually alternate (1 leaf at each junction with stem)
    • Spines, modified from leaves, occur in many genera
  • Flowers
    • Inflorescence (flower arrangement) in many forms
    • Radially symmetrical, small to tiny, and numerous, usually in dense clusters
    • Flower parts in fours and fives
    • Ovary superior (above the attachment of other flower parts) or partly inferior (partly below the attachment of other flower parts)
  • Fruit is a drupe (a fleshy fruit with usually 1 seed in a hard inner shell — a stone fruit) or capsule (a dry, multi-chambered fruit that splits open at maturity)


  • Approximately 950 species worldwide
    • Includes buckbrush, redberry, and coffeeberry
  • Scientific name from the genus Rhamnus, from the Greek for “buckthorn”
  • Represented by 4 species at Edgewood

See General References

Browse Some Edgewood Plants in this Family