Rhamnus erythroxylum is a very spiny, strongly-branching, deciduous shrub, occasionally becoming tree-like; it usually grows up to 2 metres tall[
The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a tea and source of wood.
Species in this genus contain hydroxyanthracene derivatives which have a stimulant laxative effect upon the body, and many species are used traditionally as laxatives. In small doses, and for short periods, these can be safe and effective, but used over long periods they can weaken the body's natural ability to defecate and can have a range of long-lasting negative effects upon the body, including anaemia, malabsorption, haematuria and weight loss. Large single doses can cause severe purging.
E. Asia - Mongolia, southeast Siberia, northern and central China (Gansu, Hebei, Nei Monggol, Qinghai, Shaanxi, Shanxi)
Thickets, hills, open slopes, stony and rocky slopes, dry sands; at elevations from 1,000 - 2,100 metres[
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Rhamnus erythroxylum is a very cold-hardy plant, able to tolerate temperatures down to around -35°c when fully dormant[
The leaves are strongly fragrant[
A dioecious species, both male and female forms need to be grown if fruit and seed are required[
The strongly fragrant leaves are used for making tea in Shaanxi[
The flowers are a good source of nectar for bees[
Although only available in small sizes, the wood is beautiful and very durable. It is used for making small objects[
We have no specific information for this species, but all the members of this genus contain a mixture of compounds (mainly rhamnetin, quercitin and rhamnazin) that make a range of good quality dyes. The colour and its intensity depend upon what part of the plant is used as dyeing material (leaves, fruits and bark are most commonly used), at what period of growth it is collected and in what state it is used. With the use of the corresponding mordants (alum, copper and iron vitriols, tin dioxide, chromium, etc.) it is possible to obtain virtually the entire spectrum of colours from lemon-yellow to purple and dark cinnamon-brown, from olive-green to intensive blue and violet[
The dye extracts obtained from the bark, leaves and fruits are suitable for dyeing cottons, silks, woollens, leather, paper and wood. These dyes are often exceptional for their fastness[
Although we have seen no specific information for this species, the seeds of Rhamnus species are generally rich in fatty oil and several of them are extracted for use as lubricating oils etc[
Seed - best sown in the autumn in a cold frame. Stored seed will require 1 - 2 months cold stratification at about 5° and should be sown as early in the year as possible in a cold frame or outdoor seedbed[
]. Germination is usually good, at least 80% by late spring. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle, and grow them on in the greenhouse or cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer of the following year.
Cuttings of half-ripe wood, mid summer in a frame[
Cuttings of mature wood of the current year's growth, autumn in a frame.
Layering in early spring[