Sea buckthorn is a medium sized deciduous shrub with deep green, willow like leaves which shine with a silver glow in the sunlight and produce tiny orange berries that can become a beautiful canopy when left to grow up without top pruning.
This plant is at the top of many permaculture enthusiast’s list as best pick for symbiotic growing. The shrub’s extensive root system is capable of holding back the soil on fragile slopes and it is often planted amongst other fruiting plants in commercial orchards due to the nitrogen fixing actinomycetes (Frankia nodules) which develop on the rhizomes. Seabuckthorn roots are also able to transform insoluble organic and mineral matter into more soluble forms when other soil conditions are favourable (Lu 1992). In the Canadian prairies the shrubs serve well as wind breakers planted in hedgerows.
Sea buckthorn grows well in many parts of North America but prospers best in climate zones 2-7, in areas receiving 400-600 mm of precipitation annually. The average mature height of most Seaberry cultivars known to North America is between 2-4m (6′-13′), although some subspecies in china can grow up to 18m (59′) H, while others grow no higher than 50cm (1.5′). Sunny spots are best as excessive shade will result in lowered fruit production and general growth. Being dioecious, there must be male plants within the same species present to pollinate the females in order to achieve fruit. Pollination happens when air temperatures are between 6°- 10° C (42°-50°F) and female flowers are receptive for about 10 days. Fruit ripen approximately 100 days after pollination. The seaberry plant will adapt well to many soil types (except clay) and is happiest in a soil between ph 6-8. As mentioned above, a healthy sea buckthorn plant does not need nitrogen to thrive but does respond well to phosphorus and will benefit from regular winter top dressing with a good quality composted manure. Professionals studying production standards in sea buckthorn reported that foliar sprays with micronutrients, Cu, Mo, Mn, I, B, Co and Zn, increased fruit weight by up to 34.5% (Mishulina 1976) and regular watering during hot dry months (July – August) also helps to improve yields substantially.
There are many propagated cultivars on the market. Most we’re developed in Russia, China, Europe and Canada. Varieties have been developed to have fewer thorns and sweeter fruits, although no sea buckthorn berries can be considered truly sweet. The most widely grown cultivar in central and eastern Europe is named Sunny (Botaniceskaya). This cultivar was initially developed in Russia but has travelled throughout the years across Europe and into North America, as it has been a favorite for it’s large, juicy berries with a lightly acidic taste and a tiny chewable seed.
Some uncertainties as to the invasive nature of sea buckthorn have been called into question over the years. Dr. A Bruvelis, a long time seabuckthorn propagation expert in Europe, states,. “There are some officials (mainly in Great Britain) who account sea buckthorn as an invasive species. [Sbt] has not generally been considered to be a desirable feature on sand dunes in Eastern England and South Scotland because of forming of dense thorny thickets in recreational areas. [Sbt] spread around by root suckers and very, very rarely by seeds. We should always keep in mind that they talk about wild stands exclusively on sand dunes, where [sbt] is able to compete with other species due to humble growing requirements. Considering Sea buckthorn spreads primarily through root suckers, this might cause problems by occupying neighbouring plots around small private gardens and backyards in cities and towns. In commercial plantations root suckers are mowed along with grass. Old abandoned plantations can become like impenetrable jungles. Excellent place for wildlife.”
Sea buckthorn is not on the invasive species lists of North America, -but one must be mindful of the above information when choosing where to plant their shrubs. Sandy areas will grow up fast with sucker plants and horizontal rhizomes can sprout far if not mowed regularly. Severing surface roots 60cm (24″) around the base of the shrub and removing roots down to 20cm (8”) beneath the surface of the soil can significantly help reduce undesired spreading.