Color Stories | Artist | Samson Contompasis – Buckthorn Day

This Color Story is the first submission to our Color Story Archive, and I couldn’t be more excited that it is from my dear friend and fellow artist Samson Contompasis.

Last year Samson messaged me, excited after learning about my dive into natural pigments and color – as he was hiking in one of his favorite locales here in Upstate, NY during the beautiful transition from Summer to Autumn. He came upon a source of color and had to tell me about it …. I will let him tell the story in his words …
Buckthorn Day.

I remember when i first saw that Sarah was starting to publicly announce that she was taking on, which has already has proved to be monumental, the Narrative Terrains project. It immediately engaged me. When that seed was planted it didn’t force me to look at closer at the things around me, but rather I was given the opportunity to consider finding new things to help Sarah along this projectoral journey.

While walking through some of the blessings of upstate NY, Thacher Park. A plant i never would have taken notice or consideration of now jumped out at me like black ink on white paper. Turned out it was in fact an Indigo rather than black… but this otherwise innocuous plant now had a new purpose. The thing that drew me to it was the deep black/blue of the berries on this plant. I grabbed one of the berries and burst it between my fingers and this deep staining violet/blue streaked across my finger. I immediately texted Sarah to inform her i must take her to this location to harvest whatever these things are. It was towards the end of a hike so i only remember it in this one certain area.

In quick fashion as not to miss the chance to harvest whatever these things were. In my hurried explanation i didn’t properly illustrate what exactly it was we were hunting just that it would be wildly useful to Her cause.

The day came where we met to take this micro adventure to seek out this blueish berry. Upon our arrival we quickly walked to the area that i remember seeing this plant. Unbeknownst to me, it was actually all over the top of the cliff but i only previously remember it in only one spot. The day before Sarah was researching this plant called Buckthorn, low and behold, the plant i excitedly wrangled her to a cliffside for was in fact, Buckthorn. Very excited and with a little longer reach i was able to harvest fallen berries within arms reach of the fence while Sarah collected fresh specimens.

The Narrative Terrains project has helped me pay closer attention to what my surroundings are made of just in case i have to make that hurried text once again when there is an exceptional deposit of what would to most be considered a pile of debris, a weed, a plant that could only blend into and be part of a bigger backdrop, but to Sarah could be the key to unlocking a new development in their creative journey.


Common Name: Common and glossy buckthorn
Scientific NameRhamnus cathartica & Frangula alnus
Origin: Eurasia


The buckthorn species are deciduous shrubs or small trees that can reach heights of 20 feet. Their main stem can grow up to 10 inches in diameter, but is more commonly 1-3 inches in shrub form. Leaves are dark-green and oval with toothed margins and distinct upcurved veins. Common buckthorn typically has 3-5 pairs of leaf veins, while glossy buckthorn has 8-9. The twigs of common buckthorn are tipped with a spine, a characteristic that distinguishes it from glossy buckthorn. Small, round, black berries ripen in the fall and serve as the primary spread mechanism for this species.


Buckthorn is adapted to a wide variety of site conditions and may be found along forest edges, right-of-ways, in canopy openings, and open forested wetlands. Common buckthorn is most common in dry sites, while glossy buckthorn prefers moist soil.


Buckthorn grows in dense thickets that crowd and shade out native shrubs and herbaceous species. Severe infestations may limit the regeneration of native tree seedlings.

NYS Threat Ranking Assessment Score = Very High, 81.00 (common) & High, 74.00 (glossy)


Small plants can be managed using mechanical techniques such as pulling or digging, while large plants and extensive infestations are most efficiently treated with herbicide. Glyphosate and triclopyr based products can be utilized for foliar spray and cut stump treatments.

Source : Adirondack Park invasive Plant Program