Friday, March 4, 2011

Sea Buckthorn - Do I have a male or female plant?

If this sounds like a familiar topic, it may be because I wrote about it in April of 2010.  Link to that post.  There was some discussion.  Continuing the review of information about male and female Sea Buckthorn plants yielded only the most basic information.  Therefore, I thought it could use a bit more exploration.  Adding to the challenge, Sea Buckthorn flower photos are few and far between on the internet.  The ones which do appear almost never identify the sex of the flower. And, the most respected production publications hardly touch on the subject.  
I am always learning, so comments are very much encouraged.  (2015 related post)

From the production guide by Dr. Thomas S.C. Li found on the Research Page
The species is dioecious, the sex cannot be determined in the seed, or prior to 3-4 years of growth,....On fruiting plants, the ... buds are formed.  ... appearance, according to the gender... 
  • On male plants the buds are larger, more protruding and have 6-8 covering scales. 
  • On female plants the buds are smaller, more elongated on the branch,and have only two covering scales.  Very small yellowish pistolate flowers appear, usually before the leaves, late April to mid May.  
You may find a better description on the internet.  Unfortunately less informative Sea Buckthorn plant sex information is more widely available.

Enough background - Now to explore the question!
fig 1

fig 2
fig 3
Each one of these prints can be clicked on and enlarged greatly.  Open each in a new tab if you know how (right click>open in new tab).  I am going to compare the different artists' drawings of the male and female flowers.  This, I think, will help with the photo identifications of Sea Berry sex differences.

Male Sea Buckthorn Flower
  • fig 1 - drawing component 1
  • fig 2 - drawing component a (bud) and b (fully open)
  • fig 3 - drawing component  d and d
Female Sea Buckthorn Flower
  • fig 1 - drawing component 2
  • fig 2 - drawing component c and d 
  • fig 3 - drawing component e (individual oosphere w/pistil) b (female branch of multiple oospheres and pistils)



Sea Buckthorn / Sea Berry flower collections are just a little bit less rare now with these male and female buckthorn photographs.  This spring, if you have some additional Sea Buckthorn flower photographs to share please send them to the e-mail address in my profile.  Please identify the variety if possible.


  1. "Contrary to general opinion, it is very easy to distinguish between male and female plants in the seedling stage, especially in spring when the axillary buds are very prominent on male plants and these should be separated and labelled at this period. The shoots of the female plants are quite clear and smooth at this period, so that it is impossible to confuse the sexes. In addition to this, pistillate plants are distinctly more spreading in habit and growth is much more twiggy."


  2. Could you graft a male branch to a female plant? If so this might be a much more efficient way of pollination. Plus, the female plants seem to be more showy (the males are kind of ugly). So, this would also make for a more beautiful garden.


    1. Thanks Anthony - I have thought about this as well and will try it. It would be a great innovation if it was successful. --Tom

  3. I have a female Seabuck "Titan" that i bought from Raintree a few years ago, i also bought a male pollinator that was unnamed, the same year. The female is over 3 feet tall this Spring, the male is only, maybe, two feet tall. It looks as though he is in bloom but the female is not as far as i can tell. Not sure this picture will post, but i'll try: [IMG][/IMG]

    If the male flowers at this time in Spring, but the female flowers much later, what are the chances of ever getting berries with this pairing? Thanks for your input!

    1. Hello Icebear-
      I had a similar experience last year. I thought it was because some had been transplanted different years and the maturity had been effected. Possibly that is true. This year, the plants in Mansfield had lots of male flowers and if the female flowers appeared, I missed them. Maybe in Maine (going later this week) there will be a different result to report. The grower in Canada suggested planting a couple of varieties of male plants for an increased period of pollen availability. Polmix 1 and Polmix 2 were his suggestions. I am hoping the variations with the "wild" plants I have in maine will take care of the different bloom times. Time, again, will tell

    2. Hey Tom,

      i think i may be in luck. i think i have noticed evidence of flowers on my "Titan" female this year. they look more like the photo you posted in this entry:

      than they do from the entry here:
      which almost reminds me of a teeny version of witch hazel compared to the possible blooms on mine.

      i posted some pics here (if you don't mind my putting up the copy/paste to my blog)

      if you can take a look at my (pathetic attempt to get) pictures, i'd appreciate your opinion.

      Also, forgot to mention i'm in Maine also. Just much further south than your farm.... hopefully the mud will dry out a bit and you'll get up there soon to take a look at how things fared during that rather rough winter we just had.

    3. HI. glad you got plants from Raintree. mine are on their third year. Titan female is 5-6 feet, Male about 4. Male blooms really good. Nothing that I can tell on female. No berries as of yet. Thought they should have them by year two? Any Advice? ps got a couple of extra shoots this spring too...

    4. Hi Anna, My experience is that the males plants of the same age will bloom a year or two before the females. If you do not see any tiny green berries near the stem of the branch then you may have to wait another year. 3-5 years for the first female bloom has been my experience. The plants I have are not varietal and of varied genetic stock. As the years go by I hope to isolate a strain that reliably first produces berries in a more specific time frame than 3-5 years. For now though, patience is what you may need.

  4. Thank you soooo much for this info! Super helpful and gratefully used! I matched my plants!

    1. Your welcome and thanks for the nice comment!