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The spread of invasive species is recognized as one of the major factors contributing to ecosystem change and instability throughout the region.Invasive species have the ability to displace or wipe out native species, alter fire regimes, damage infrastructure, and threaten human livelihoods.

In Lake County, the invasive species European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) now accounts for 42% of the tree canopy. We aim to eliminate buckthorn from all forest preserves and reduce buckthorn by 50% countywide within 20 years by:

Buckthorn Eradication Pilot Project | Middlefork Savanna
A partnership surrounding Middlefork Savanna Forest Preserve in Lake Forest is working toward the eradication of the non-native, invasive species European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) within a 2,900-acre area. Buckthorn is widespread in the northern half of Illinois and dominates the understory of many natural areas. Once established, buckthorn displaces or eliminates native flowers, shrubs, trees, and wildlife, alters fire patterns, damages infrastructure, and threatens human livelihoods.

Though the focus of this pilot program is buckthorn removal, the initiative educates the public on the negative impact all invasive species have on our ecosystems and inspires change in behaviors and practices. Learn more »


When it comes to buckthorn removal, the difference across property lines is often stark. To effectively control buckthorn in Lake County, efforts must go beyond forest preserve boundaries. We are enlisting help from homeowners and landscapers to battle buckthorn and create a healthy, more diverse urban landscape.

In 2017, we distributed a survey to homeowners around Middlefork Savanna to research the best ways to eradicate buckthorn and support native landscapes. The results are enhancing outreach efforts, focusing restoration activities, and informing similar projects throughout the Chicago region. Read the report here.

You can join the movement, too. We invite all Lake County residents to help. Several homeowners have already volunteered to help eradicate buckthorn. Whether they have removed buckthorn from their yard or are simply considering it, every resident who participates will benefit the community.

Looking ahead, we will distribute resources to help assess your yard, plus tips to remove buckthorn, landscape with native plants, and get further involved with this effort toward an even more beautiful, healthy Lake County.



1. The first step in buckthorn removal is proper identification. Buckthorn is an invasive species of shrub or small tree, reaching up to 30 feet high.


2. In the understory of many woodlands, yards, and neighborhoods, buckthorn often grows in dense hedges or thickets, staying green until late fall.


3. Buckthorn’s oval, shiny leaves have prominent veins and a slight curving tip. They grow one to four inches long. Pale green-yellow flowers appear July through September.


4. Buckthorn produces quarter-inch, glossy black fruit by September. Birds and other wildlife eat this fruit and disperse the seeds, spreading buckthorn into new areas.


5. Buckthorn bark is gray-brown with small, horizontal white-gray lines called lenticels. Common buckthorn bark can peel and look shaggy with age.



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