Monday, July 9, 2012

Permaculture Plants: Sea-Buckthorn

Sea-Buckthorn... this plant can do it all!

Common Name: Sea-Buckthorn
Other Names: Seaberry, Sandthorn, Sallowthorn, Siberian Pineapple
Scientific Name: Hippophae rhamnoides
Other species: Himalayan/Willow-Leaved Sea-Buckthorn (Hippophae salicifolia)
Family: Elaeagnaceae (the Oleaster family)

These small berries are best harvested by hand.

Best known for their thorns, silvery-green leaves, and their bright orange berries (oval and just under an inch long), Sea-Buckthorns have a lot more to offer... edible berries that are very high in vitamin C and antioxidants, drought-tolerant, nitrogen-fixing, tolerates maritime environments, can form a fruit-bearing windbreak or living fence, has almost no pests or diseases, and requires minimal maintenance. I have not eaten or grown this plant yet, but I plan to if I can while I am living within sight of the ocean.
Originating in Asia and eastern Europe, there are 7-8 Sea-Buckthorn species/sub-species. The Common Sea-Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is by far the most widespread and cultivated. The vast majority of these plants are cultivated in China, and they are used due to their soil and water conserving properties. Many of the improved varieties of Sea-Buckthorn were developed in Russia.

  • Sea-Buckthorn has not become more popular on a larger scale due to the difficulty with large-scale harvesting. The fruit does not come off easily with any mechanical means (pickers squash the berries and shakers can harvest less than half the ripe fruit), so the only good way to harvest is slowly with our bare hands... the old-fashioned way. Perfect for the home grower!
  • Sea-Buckthorn berries contain one of the highest levels of vitamin-C (15 times that of oranges!).
  • A beer named Tyrnilambic Baie d'Argousier from Brussels uses Sea-Buckthorn berries.
  • The berries contain up to 9% oil (essential fatty acids... from a fruit!)
  • Sea-Buckthorn is used in a lot of cosmetics
  • Sea-Buckthorn has an extensive, tangled root system, so it has been used for soil restoration projects around the world
  • The berry contains a single seed

These small, tart berries are nutritional powerhouses.

Primary Uses:
  • Fresh eating – only certain varieties, as the fruit is very tart (very acidic); however, fruit that has undergone a frost is often sweeter, but the fruit is often past its prime
  • Juice - often sweetened (sugar, honey) and even diluted with water (up to 5 parts water to 1 part Sea-Buckthorn Berry Juice)
  • Cooking (i.e. sauces) - try to avoid overcooking as this will destroy the flavor
  • Baking (pies, tarts, etc.)
  • Preserves, Jellies, Jams, etc.
  • Fruit Leather
  • Flavoring component to Beer, Wine, Liquors, Cordials, etc.

Secondary Uses:
  • Nitrogen fixing plant (puts nitrogen back into the soil) - inoculated with actinorhizal bacteria (Frankia).
  • Windbreak (especially in maritime climates)
  • Hedge/living fence
  • Soil conservation
  • Fall and Winter food for wildlife, especially birds
  • General insect nectar plant (Spring)
  • Small craft projects - fine grained wood
  • Charcoal production
  • Soaps, lotions, and other cosmetics
  • Dye from the berries and sap
  • A number of traditional medicinal uses

Yield: 20 pounds (9 kg) per plant 
Harvesting: Late Summer-Early Autumn. Pick when the berries are bright orange and just starting to soften. The fruit does not fall off the plant until it is past its prime. The thorns can make harvesting difficult (i.e.painful!), so go slow. Some people will even clip berry-laden branch, stick it in the freezer for a few hours, and then easily shake the frozen berries off into a bucket.
Storage: Fresh for a few days. Frozen for a few months.

The dense, thorny, fast-growing hedge or windbreak can withstand salty winds.

A single specimen in a garden - very pretty.

Chill Requirement: Likely considering is origin, but no reliable information available

Plant Type: Large to Very-Large Shrub
Leaf Type: Deciduous
Forest Garden Use: Canopy Tree for small Forest Garden, Sub-Canopy (Understory), Shrub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Many varieties available.

Pollination: Dioecious (male and female plants); Need at least 1 male plant per 8-10 female plants for pollination. Appears to be pollinated primarily by wind.
Flowering: Spring.

Life Span:
Years to Begin Bearing: 2-3 years,
Years to Maximum Bearing: 3-5 years
Years of Useful Life: No reliable information, but as this plant suckers so easily, this should not be an issue... as one plant starts to diminish, we can allow and nuture a new sucker.

The thorns of Sea-Buckthorn are hard to spot with berries and leaves in place.

Size: 10-20 feet (3-6 meters) tall and wide; Hippophae salicifolia is taller, up to 33 feet (10 meters)
Roots: Suckering - new plants can grow from root shoots some distance from the trunk
Growth Rate: Medium - Fast

The very small flowers are green and resemble leaves.

Light: Prefers full sun
Shade: Tolerates light shade, produces better in full sun
Moisture: Dry to medium, even wet if well drained
pH: tolerates a wide variety of soil (5.5-8.5)

Special Considerations for Growing:
  • Tolerates a maritime environment well.
  • Tolerates frost (especially the flowers in Spring).

Propagation: Usually from hardwood cuttings for true-to-type plants. Seed (needs 17 weeks of cold stratification).

Minimal.  However, since plants will fruit best on branches that are 2-years-old, regular pruning will increase yields, but it is not necessary. May need to prune back suckering roots to keep the plant under control... to keep it from forming a thicket.

  • Sea-Buckthorn can spread fairly easily through seed or root suckering.
  • Thorns can make it a hassle to harvest.

Widely known for juice, Sea-Buckthorn has many attributes making it worth growing.


  1. Great website and blog here.

    Does anyone know what would make could companion or guild plants with this? I am planting two tomorrow but can easily add in companions. I am thinking that because it is a nitrogen fixer, the possibilities are vast.

    Also, I imagine the thorns also deter the deer.

    1. I found the deer here in central montana love the young new seaberry plants. Not enough thorns on the small plants. Some form of protection needed such as deterrent sprays which helps but doesn't prevent, or fencing...I don't think the deer will bother established seaberry shrubs because of the thorn development.

  2. Thank you for this great information! I hope you didn't lose all your young plants.

  3. The foliage (not berries) has been used as a feed for horses in indigenous cultures, so I imagine deer may browse it. I have 4 bushes Zone 6B at 4,600' elevation with considerable deer pressure and have not had any deer damage. Plant endures drought well once established. Mine are planted with following companions/guild: mulberry, crabapple, nanking cherry, yucca, jujube, prickly pear cactus, culinary sage.

  4. I Like your blog, it is very informative. Thanks for the wonderful information,

  5. What is the potential for this to become an invasive species? I live in Metcalfe county in south central Kentucky and would like to plant this on my property?

  6. Anyone selling these in east USA? Maxwgreen, we are near Berea and would love to trade/buy some off ya if you have any.

    1. I found them at: for a fathers day gift. My dad grew up in CA, so I thought a CA boy would love some citrus as a gift.

    2. I found them at: for a fathers day gift. My dad grew up in CA, so I thought a CA boy would love some citrus as a gift.

    3. I googled, and the company did not get even 1 star out of 5. No one gave them anything above a 1, so this makes me wonder if the person writing this post is somehow connected to directgardening. My suggestion would be to avoid this company like the plague. I chose to go with the name anonymous because I don't want to be harassed, however, if you don't believe me, google it for yourself, and you will be glad you didn't order from them.

    4. has them

  7. Hi : We are in central Alberta Canada and have many sea buckthorn in our field shelterbelts...the berries and plants are fantastic...but...get them when they are ready or you may receive the surprise we did...after harvesting some fruit we returned to find our plants devoid of any fruit + some broken branches...a munching has occured ..deer or moose..! ... at least we harvested some berries...!

    1. Where did you find them in Alberta?

  8. I love the juice mixed with orange juice 1:4 or 1:5.

  9. Dear sir, Sea Buckthorn is common in Kashmir

  10. Dear sir, Sea Buckthorn is common in Kashmir

  11. This maybe a silly question, but everything I read about this plant says it requires a male and female plant. If I am buying seeds how do I know which I have?

    1. You don't. You have to sow them and wait for a few year to see which sex the plant is. There's a 50% male:female ratio (roughly).

  12. I bought 500 female 100 male plants. State Serbia

  13. I bought 500 female 100 male plants. State Serbia

  14. I bought 500 female 100 male plants. State Serbia

  15. for bulkseabuckthorn juice and seabuckthorn oil , contact (m) 9007002641 or email

  16. Looking buy plant sea buckhorn in WI


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  19. These berries are really helpful for our skins as they have tremendous amount of Vitamin C in them.

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  21. Can it grow in temperature of 20-28. .in summer and 15-18 of winter area?

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