Hippophae rhamnoides

(common Sea Buckthorn/Seaberry/Siberean Pineapple)

Hippophae rhamnoides is the most widespread species in the flowering shrub genus Hippophae. Often referred to as Sea Buckthorn – and increasingly as Sea Berry, thanks to its clusters of vibrant yellow-orange berries – this deciduous plant is native to Eurasia; often found near the sea. The species is thought to have originated in Nepal. Potential habitat for Sea Buckthorn includes

semi-desert, temperate, and sub-alpine ecosystems. Because of its tolerance to a broad range of climates - as well as the nutraceutical quality of its fruit and its beneficial impact on the soil - Hippophae rhamnoides is a plant with significant promise in edible polyculture systems. In spite of its common name, Hippophae rhamnoides is not a buckthorn. It is a member of the Elaeagnaceae family (oleaster/Russian Olive), rather than Rhamnaceae (Buckthorn).

Roots (Alnus) hosting Frankia nodules.

Sea Buckthorn is often acclaimed for being a fruiting plant that also fixes nitrogen. The roots of Hippophae rhamnoides host nodules of mutualistic microbial life which convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia by combining it with hydrogen (these are called diazotrophs). The microbes that form symbiotic relationships with the roots of Sea Buckthorn are of the genus Frankia. When the nitrogen has been processed into a usable form to plants it is absorbed by the roots and stored throughout the plant. When Sea Buckthorn is pruned or sheds its leaves for a cold season, the pieces that fall to the ground and into the soil add accessible nitrogen for other plants.

The berries of the female Hippophae rhamnoides plant are astounding in their potential to impact human health. These colorful berries contain omega fatty acids 3, 6, 7, and 9, vitamins B1, B2, folic acid, K, C, A, and E, and a great deal of antioxidants and minerals. 

For thousands of years the Hippophae rhamnoides plant has been used to treat a variety of ailments as well as to increase the vitality of already healthy individuals.

Propagation of Sea Buckthorn can be done either by seed or cutting from a mature plant. When grown from seed the plants take longer to begin flowering and bearing fruit than those grown from cuttings.

Development of a Sea Buckthorn seedling over the course of a year.

Hippophae rhamnoides seeds are generally acclimated to locations with cold winters. Because of this, they seem to prefer a cool, moist environment for germination. Once a seedling has been established, Sea Buckthorn is tolerant to both drought and salt. 

Male flowers of Hippophae rhamnoides
Female flowers of Hippophae rhamnoides

Hippophae rhamnoides blooms sometime in spring (influenced by environmental conditions). The flowers of each plant are either all male or all female: Sea Buckthorn is [dioecious] not self-fertile. Some growers suggest that wind pollination of Sea Buckthorn occurs best within 2-3 metres. In windy coastal regions, pollination of female plants generally ceases when males are further than 100 metres away although fruit production has been found to decrease with a pollination distance of more than approximately 64 metres. A male to female ratio of at least 1:7 is recommended for adequate berry production.

Mature, well established Sea Buckthorn bushes can be pruned fairly heavily and are reported to often respond with increased growth and productivity.

Pruning and harvesting Seaberry - Ben Falk of Whole Systems Design

© 2016 by Alex Michaud

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