It is native to all of Europe and Asia and its ideal habitat is the banks of rivers with sandy or calcareous soil. The branches are initially vertically cracked and dull grey in colour, but over time they become blackish. They have apical and lateral spines. The leaves are up to 7 cm long and 1.5 cm broad, not toothed, silvery and scaly on both pages.
It blooms abundantly with flowers carried by short racemes at the same time as the appearance of the leaves, in April.
Being a dioecious plant, there are specimens that carry only male flowers and others that carry only female flowers. Consequently, if you want to get the fruits in the garden you must have both plants. These are ovoid, 6 to 8 mm long, orange and contain a single seed, brown. They appear around September, in dense clusters that cover the branches. They are very persistent and often last throughout the winter because they are not appreciated by birds.
These shrubs generally begin to produce fruit three years after planting and enter full production when they reach 7-8. Males flower a little before females for a period of 6 to 12 days. From the moment of pollination it is necessary to wait at least 12 weeks for the fruits to ripen.
Family and gender
Hippophae, comprising 3 species
Type of plant
Deciduous, stripping and dioecious tree or shrub
Very tolerant, even salty soils
Spring, small and yellow
Margot, suckers, cuttings
Pests and diseases
Medium-sized shrub, with deciduous leaves, originating in Europe and Asia, has fairly rapid growth and can reach 3-4 meters in height. The stem is erect, very branched, the branches are equipped with long thorns, the young specimens have messy foliage, which tends to become roundish or umbrella as the years go by. The leaves are opposite, linear, 5-8 cm long, of a greyish-green colour on the upper page, paler, almost whitish, on the lower one.
They are dioecious shrubs, therefore the masculine and feminine flowers bloom on separate plants, and it is therefore necessary to have at least two specimens, one per sex, of hippophae The flowers are yellow-greenish, not very decorative, they bloom before the leaves appear, in March-April.
In summer the female specimens produce the fruits, very similar to olives, but of orange-yellow colour; the fruits of sea buckthorn are placed along the branches, are edible, even if having a fairly acid taste, and can be used for producing syrups.
These plants are utilized for deciduous hedges or also as single specimens; their capacity to consolidate the soil, with a well developed rooting apparatus, and the presence in their roots of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, renders the thorny olive trees very suitable also for consolidating landslides, or even in the flowerbeds at the edges of the roads.
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plant in a sunny, or at least very bright, place; they are not afraid of the cold and tolerate very well also the pollution and the presence of sea salt in the soil and in the irrigation water.
Thorny olive trees need fairly regular watering, especially during the hottest months of the year; they cannot withstand prolonged periods of drought.
They develop without any problems in any soil, even in the common garden earth, provided it is not excessively dry.
It happens by seed, in spring, or by cutting, in spring or by late summer.
Pests and diseases
They are usually not attacked by pests or diseases.
The hippophae rhamnoides in Europe can be found in three subspecies.
– Hippophae rhamnoides subsp. carpatica, from the Carpathians. Its habitat are the forests and the pre-alpine shrubby areas. Usually it grows in association with the willow. Its branches grow straight and its berries are spherical in shape.
– Hippophae rhamnoides subsp. fluviatilis: it is mainly found in pre-alpine zones and is characterized by long flexible branches, by oval leaves of 3-6 mm. The spines are less pronounced.
– Hippophae rhamnoides subsp. Rhamnoides: it is the most widespread and it is very present on the coasts, especially in association with the sandy dunes. Also here it often accompanies the willow. Its appearance is very thorny with short and rigid branches. The jets are knotty and the general shape of the fruits is cylindrical, with flat seeds.
The morphological characteristics, however, vary considerably depending on the wide range of climatic conditions covering the distribution area.
Distribution and habitat
Studies have shown that at the end of the Ice Age sea buckthorn was present almost throughout Europe. In fact, it is a pioneer plant that has the particularity of contributing to soil enrichment, fixing the nitrogen, and then encouraging the subsequent inclusion of more demanding species. As other species have spread, the areas occupied by the h. have been restricted above all to some mountain and coastal areas.
In these isolated communities, different subspecies and varieties have developed, each with its own specific characteristics. In any case, today it is spread spontaneously in North Africa, in almost all of Europe, in the Middle and Far East. It has also been taken to the United States and Canada where it has been widely used in the fight against soil erosion and especially coastal erosion.
The food, medicinal and ecological uses of sea buckthorn have been known for at least 1000 years. It is cultivated both in the traditional way and in the organic and biodynamic methods. For example, the latter type of approach is very common in Tuscany.
Industrial and forage uses
Already in ancient Greece and Roman times its leaves were held in high regard as animal feed. In particular, it was recommended for horses of a certain value. It was found to be of great help for vigorous growth and rapid weight gain. Even today, especially in China, this type of forage is encouraged. In addition, flour and oil from the fruit are used as feed in poultry farms. It has been found that they are decisive in increasing the orange colour of the yolks.
They are also very useful as feed for rainbow trout, favouring the salmon colouring of the meat.
Food and pharmaceutical uses
The freshly picked fruits are extremely acidic and therefore not pleasant to the palate. Instead, they become palatable in the form of jams, compotes, jellies and sorbets.
The resulting oil can be used both as a food and as a pharmaceutical base.
There are actually two types of oil. The first comes from the pulp, the second from the seed contained in the center. Extraction can be by maceration, cold pressing or centrifugation.
Pharmacologically the oil contains a lot of vitamin E and is a source of fatty acids Omega 3, 6, 7 and 9. It is used to promote healing and reaction to burns. It is also used to rehydrate the skin and mucous membranes.
However, the entire plant has always been widely used in traditional Western and Eastern medicine. The fruits are known to be exceptionally rich in vitamin C. They contain as much as 5 times more vitamin C than kiwifruit. They also have an abundance of vitamins A, E, F and P.
Horticultural, forestry and soil management uses
– As we have said, this plant has been and is widely used to combat soil erosion. It improves its quality thanks to the presence, at the level of the roots, of knots that host specialized bacteria (e.g. Actimomycetes Frankia) capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen. In England it was found that they were able to fix about 180 kg of nitrogen per hectare of soil.
– It is widely used as a defensive hedge or to delimit pasture areas due to its sharp spines. It is also widely used with windbreak barrier as it has characteristics of high rusticity
– It is widely used as a separating element in coastal areas due to its resistance to salt in both air and soil. It can be optimally combined with wrinkled roses, privet and tamarisk. It has also shown great resistance to urban conditions, especially pesticides and pollution.
– Like all pioneer plants it multiplies easily and therefore has a great forestry interest. The lignified branches produce very easily roots and it is therefore very simple, in summer, the reproduction by cutting or layering. It is also very easy to multiply by seed and you can have beautiful plants within three years. This reproduction is so easy that in some places in need of new vegetation the seeds are widely spread even using planes.
– The plant is however also highly regarded from the ornamental point of view as the silvery leaves and bright orange berries are an excellent decoration for gardens and can also be used in compositions for the embellishment of the house.
Cultivation, multiplication and pests
As we have said, the sea buckthorn grows on poor soils that has the ability to make more fertile. It is therefore a pioneering species that colonizes unstable areas after floods, sandy shorelines and landslide slopes. It prefers absolutely a sunny exposure, but can live up to high altitudes, even above 5000 m., as happens in Asia. If we live in a dry area, the irrigations must be abundant. The multiplication can be easily done by seed. First, it must be washed and dried well.
Then it must be placed in a light soil and kept at 5°C for three months (as would happen in nature). Multiplication by cutting is very successful in water. The ideal is to take semi-woody branches, during the month of July. The roots appear within a week. It is then necessary to transfer everything to a sandy substrate and keep it in a sheltered area. This species can be prey to different phytophages: beetles, grillotalps and noctues: in particular, their larvae attack the roots.
They can be controlled with specific products. With insecticides, leaf-feeding pests can also be controlled. The young plants can be attacked by the fusarium and the Pythium, but they can be eradicated and prevented with the right cultivation care or possibly with specific fungicides.
Sea buckthorn – Hippophae rhamnoides: Recipe
Strawberry jam and sea buckthorn
400 g of strawberries
200 ml of berry juice
500 gr of sugar
The evening before wash, dry and finely chop the strawberries. Mix them with the sugar and the juice of sea buckthorn berries. Leave to rest overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning crush the strawberries and sieve everything. Pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil (107°C) and keep it there for 3 minutes. Pour into sterilized glass jars and store in the refrigerator.
- Sea buckthorn belongs to the Hippophae genus, which includes about ten species of which the most common is the hi
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