Irish Sea Buckthorn Growers Association
promoting sea buckthorn in Ireland
Questions and answers
Q Are seed-grown plants suitable for berry production?
A Seed-grown plants will be a random mixture of female and male plants. While the female plants will probably produce berries, there is no means of identifying which plants are which until the onset of flowering (3 to 5 years).
For reliable berry production, named cultivars propagated from cutting are recommended.
Q Where can named cultivars be obtained?
A It is necessary to go to specialist nurseries. Conventional nurseries and garden centres generally only supply seed-grown stock.
Q What proportion of male plants are needed for pollination?
A The bare minimum would be 5-10 percent. However, better results will be achieved, especially in the early years when pollen production is low, with 15-20 percent males.
Q Which cultivars are best?
A Opinions vary. The following varieties have all shown good potential for berry production in Ireland: Askola, Hergo, Leikora, Orange Energy, Sirola. All these varieties were developed in Germany. Sirola is the least thorny of these varieties. The Russian cultivar Chuisaya (syn Chuysaya) has a reputation for being particularly disease resistant.
Q How are the berries picked?
A Commerically, a variety of methods are used. On a small scale, hand picking with a berry comb or vacuum harvesting are the best methods. The berries can be used fresh or processed for juice or other products.
Q What is the best treatment for the picked berries?
A In order to preserve the nutrient content, the berries should be processed as soon as possible after harvest. Low-heat methods (for example pressing or juicing) are preferable as these have the lowest impact on nutrient content. Berries can also be dried, but this should be carried out at temperatures below 40 Celsius.
Unpasturised juice can be stored in a refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 weeks. Frozen juice can be kept for twelve months or longer.
Q Is sea buckthorn invasive?
A In most environments, sea buckthorn is NOT invasive.
Sea buckthorn has been in Ireland for around two hundred years. In spite of this long history in Ireland, there are no documented cases of sea buckthorn colonising either woodland or agricultural land. Although it has become naturalised in some coastal regions of Ireland, away from the coast sea buckthorn remains a very rare plant, and is mainly limited to roadside embankments where it was originally planted by local authorities.
However, in favourable circumstances (in particular where there is an absence of grazing animals, including rabbits, or where there is no management of the site in question) sea buckthorn can colonise sand dune systems and in these situations may eventually out-compete the indigenous plants. The plant spreads mainly by suckering, but can also be spread by dispersal of berries (by birds) too. As a precautionary measure, it is strongely recommended never to plant sea buckthorn in or adjacent to sand dune systems unless the risks to indigenous flora and fauna have first been fully assessed.
Sea Buckthorn Habitat Study (UK 2007)
However, the potential risk to coastal habitats notwithstanding, it must also be acknowledged that sea buckthorn can have a beneficial impact on local habitats, particularly on those vulnerable to erosion. The massive damage to Irish sand dune systems caused by the storms of December 2013/January 2014 could have been significantly reduced had sea buckthorn been an integral part of coastal defense.
Q Apart from berry production, what other benefits are there of growing sea buckthorn?
A Sea buckthorn is a tough plant with excellent capabilities as a wind-break or shelter plant. It also is valuable for preventing erosion (for example on steep banks). Sea buckthorn is also a nitrogen fixer - putting atmospheric nitrogen back into the soil by means of beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria. In some parts of the world, sea buckthorn wood is used as fuel and the leaves for animal feed.