Effects of Puccinia species complex on common buckthorn

photograph of researcher inspecting common buckthorn leaves

Postdoctoral associate Jyoti Saini Sharma inspects common buckthorn for crown rust, photo provided by Pablo Olivera Firpo



Common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) is a highly invasive plant that is well-established across Minnesota. It disrupts ecosystems and degrades wildlife-supporting habitats by outcompeting and displacing native vegetation. Buckthorn is difficult and costly to eradicate, requiring long-term commitment from land managers.

Several crown rust fungi (Puccinia Series coronata) have been found to infect and negatively affect common buckthorn. Building on their prior research on rusts of glossy buckthorn, this project team will identify the specific crown rust fungi that infect common buckthorn in Minnesota, determine the symptoms of disease, and document the host range of the pathogen. Once identified, they’ll evaluate the pathogen’s effects on common buckthorn including growth and mortality. 

Research questions

  • What are the crown rust fungi that infect common buckthorn in Minnesota?
  • What is the host range of the pathogen species in common buckthorn and graminoids?
  • What are the disease symptoms and severity of the pathogen species?
  • What is the effect of the pathogen on common buckthorn seedlings?

Practical implications

Researchers will be able to generate the first distribution map of the crown rust species complex in Minnesota, which will reveal the relative prevalence on common buckthorn. Should the research team confirm that crown rust fungi is effective in suppressing common buckthorn, it may become a valuable tool for land managers.

Report crown rust on buckthorn

If you observe crown rust (Puccinia spp.) on common buckthorn leaves in Minnesota, you can submit your observations to the research team.

News and media


This project began in January 2023 and is in progress for the next 3 years. Please check back at a later time for updates.

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Research team

Pablo D. Olivera Firpo | principal investigator

Jyoti Saini Sharma | postdoctoral associate

Yue Jin | research supervisor

Shahryar Kianian | researcher

Karl Miller | researcher

Molly Veregge | graduate student


Collaborating organizations

USDA-ARS Cereal Disease Laboratory

Minnesota Department of Agriculture