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)

      • Usually small trees or woody shrubs
      • 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
      • 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