Sea buckthorn – Hippophae rhamnoides

Trees & ShrubsFlowering Trees & Shrubs – Sea buckthorn – Hippophae rhamnoides

Hippophae, the sea buckthorns, are deciduous shrubs in the family Elaeagnaceae. The name sea buckthorn may be hyphenated to avoid confusion with the buckthorns (Rhamnus, family Rhamnaceae). It is also referred to as sandthorn, sallowthorn, or seaberry

Hippophae rhamnoides – common sea buckthorn, is the native British species. Most suitable for coastal gardens and widely planted for its edible fruit.

HIPPOPHAE RHAMNOIDES.—Sea Buckthorn, or Sallow Thorn. Though generally considered as a sea-side shrub, the Sea Buckthorn is by no means exclusively so, thriving well, and attaining to large dimensions, in many inland situations. The flowers are not at all conspicuous, but this is amply compensated for by the beautiful silvery-like leaves and wealth of fruit borne by the shrub. In not a few instances, for fully a foot in length, the branches are smothered with crowded clusters of bright orange berries, and which render the shrub during November and December both distinct and effective. It does best in sandy soil, and is readily increased from suckers, which are usually plentifully produced by old plants. For sea-side planting it is one of our most valuable shrubs, succeeding, as it does, well down even to high water mark, and where the foliage is lashed with the salt spray. (Webster)

In ancient times, leaves and young branches from sea buckthorn were supposedly fed as a remedy to horses to support weight gain and appearance of the coat, thus leading to the name of the genus, Hippophae derived from hippo (horse), and phaos (shining).

Seven species are recognized, two of them probably of hybrid origin, native over a wide area of Europe and Asia.

Hippophae rhamnoides, the common sea buckthorn, is by far the most widespread of the species in the genus, with the ranges of its eight subspecies extending from the Atlantic coasts of Europe across to north-western Mongolia and north-western China. In western Europe, it is largely confined to sea coasts where salt spray off the sea prevents other larger plants from outcompeting it, but in central Asia, it is more widespread in dry semi-desert sites where other plants cannot survive the dry conditions. In central Europe and Asia, it also occurs as a subalpine shrub above tree line in mountains, and other sunny areas such as river banks. They are tolerant of salt in the air and soil, but demand full sunlight for good growth and do not tolerate shady conditions near larger trees. They typically grow in dry, sandy areas.

More than 90% or about 1,500,000 ha (5,800 sq mi) of the world’s natural sea buckthorn habitat is found in China, Mongolia, Russia, northern Europe and Canada where the plant is used for soil, water and wildlife conservation, anti-desertification purposes and for consumer products.

Sea buckthorn hardiness zones are approximately 3 through 7.

Common sea buckthorn has branches that are dense and stiff, and very thorny. The leaves are a distinct pale silvery-green, lanceolate, 3–8 centimetres (1.2–3.1 in) long and less than 7 millimetres (0.28 in) broad. It is dioecious, with separate male and female plants. The male produces brownish flowers which produce wind-distributed pollen. The female plants produce orange berries 6–9 millimetres (0.24–0.35 in) in diameter, soft, juicy and rich in oils. The roots distribute rapidly and extensively, providing a non-leguminous nitrogen fixation role in surrounding soils.


  • Hippophae goniocarpa
  • Hippophae gyantsensis
  • Hippophae litangensis
  • Hippophae neurocarpa
  • Hippophae rhamnoides – common sea buckthorn
  • Hippophae salicifolia
  • Hippophae tibetana


A study of nuclear ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS) sequence data showed that the genus can be divided into three monophyletic clades:

  • H. tibetana
  • H. rhamnoides with the exception of H. rhamnoides ssp. gyantsensis (=H. gyantsensis)
  • remaining species

A study using chloroplast sequences and morphology, however, recovered only two clades:

  • H. tibetana, H. gyantsensis, H. salicifolia, H. neurocarpa
  • H. rhamnoides