|Leaves and berries of Rhamnus alaternus|
Rhamnus alaternus is a species of flowering plant in the buckthorn family known by the common name of Italian buckthorn or Mediterranean buckthorn.
The genus name derives from the Ancient Greek "rabdos", or “stick” with reference to the presence in many species of woody spine on the end of each twig. The specific Latin name alaternus, assonant with "alternus" or “alternate”, refers to the alternate leaves.
Rhamnus alaternus is an evergreen shrub 1–5 metres (3 ft 3 in–16 ft 5 in) high. The stems have reddish bark and pubescent young branches, rounded and compact foliage with alternating leaves, 2–6 centimetres (0.79–2.4 in) long, sometimes nearly opposite, oval or lanceolate, leathery, shiny green, yellowish-green underneath.
The small fragrant flowers are gathered in a short axillary yellow-green raceme. The flowering period extends from February to April. Fruits are obovoidal red-brownish drupes of about 3–4 millimetres (0.12–0.16 in), containing from 2 to 4 seeds. The drupes darken to black when ripe. Fruits have medicinal properties and can be used with caution as a laxative.
Distribution and habitat
This species is cultivated as an ornamental garden shrub, valued for its glossy evergreen leaves and red berries. The variegated cultivar 'Argenteovariegata' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
- Rhamnus alaternus L. subsp. alaternus
- Rhamnus alaternus L. subsp. myrtifolia (Willk.) Maire
- Rhamnus alaternus L. subsp. pendula (Pamp.) Jafri
- Pignatti S. - Flora d'Italia – Edagricole – 1982. Vol. II, pag. 78
- "RHS Plant Selector - Rhamnus alaternus 'Argenteovariegata'". Retrieved 30 May 2013.
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