Native to much of Britain, it grows to a height of 16ft (5m). It is a common shrub or small tree in hedgerows and woodland on chalk soils.
It is only when the black, sharp-flavoured berries are borne on the femal tree that the buckthorn becomes conspicuous.
It can tolerate a certain amount of shade.
Caterpillars of the Brimstone Butterfly feed on the buckthorn.