Sea buckthorn

Sea buckthorn berries (Hippophae rhamnoides)
Sea Buckthorn is a thorny shrub found along the British coast. The sour berries are a great source of vitamins and antioxidants and can be used the same way as citrus fruit. This is an essential pick for coastal foragers.

Table of Contents

Sea buckthorn: Plant profile

Common names

Sea buckthorn, Common Sea Buckthorn, Sandthorn, Sallowthorn, Seaberry, Sea Berry, Draighean Mara

Botanical name

Hippophae rhamnoides

Plant Family

Elaeagnaceae (Oleaster)


Europe and Asia. Fairly common around the British coast, though only native in the east. Occasionally planted inland.

Where to find Sea Buckthorn

This shrub is mostly found near the coast, often forming thickets on dunes and sea cliffs. Planted elsewhere occasionally.

When to find Sea Buckthorn

Berries summer through to autumn.

How to identify Sea Buckthorn

Sea Buckthorn is a thorny shrub growing up to 2 m tall. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and covered on both sides with silvery scales. The branches are densely packed with small berries that vary in color from light yellow to dark orange at the end of the season. Male and female flowers appear on separate plants.

Sea Buckthorn lookalikes

The orange-coloured berries of some Pyracantha spp. may look similar to Sea Buckthorn berries at a first glance, but Pyracantha spp. are not likely to be found in the wild or in the coast. The leaf is smaller and the shape is oval, as opposite to the thin narrow leaves of Sea Buckthorn.

Sea buckthorn leaves and berries (Hippophae rhamnoides)

All about Sea Buckthorn

The shrub is exceptionally hardy, tolerates high concentrations of salt and withstands ridiculously low winter temperatures. Therefore, sea buckthorn very often prevents other larger plants from outcompeting it and creates impenetrable thickets.

Sea buckthorn  has dense and stiff branches that are very thorny and have silvery-green leaves similar to those of Olive Trees. In suummer, delicate bright orange berries grow in crammed clusters.

Medicinal properties of Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn berries are a really nutritive and are a rich source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other bio-active compounds. Notably, it has more vitamin C than oranges and more beta-carotene content than carrots.

The juice is  used as a component of  drug supplements rich in vitamin C and it is listed as an ingredient in cosmetics used to treat skin conditions.

Culinary uses and recipes with Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn berries are extremely sour and have a flavour in between lemon and tangerine, appropiated to use as citrus fruit. Though they can be eaten raw, the berries are best cooked or combined with other ingredients to tame its flavour.

The juice make a superb salad dressing, sauces and marinades for game and fish.

Sea buckthorn berries can be preserved into jelly, syrup, honey, country wine and infused liqueur.

Sea buckthorn berries (Hippophae rhamnoides)

Safe foraging of Sea Buckthorn

Care should be taken when collecting the berries, because the shrub has big thorns.

Avoid during pregnancy and when breastfeeding.

Ecological importance of Sea Buckthorn

Sea buckthorn has been planted in coastal areas around the country because the shrub inhibits soil erosion and has nitrogen fixing properties, which helps with firming up sand dunes and providing coastal protection.

The  berries  provide food for wintering thrushes as they arrive from the continent in the autumn.

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Picture of Alvaro // Wild Plant Guy

Alvaro // Wild Plant Guy

I am the human behind BritishLocalFood. As a forager and wild food educator, my aim is to inspire you to go outdoors, familiarise with your local plants and make the best of their culinary and medicinal properties, in the hope you'd pass on any knowledge gained down to the next generation.

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