African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) is a large perennial shrub originally planted in Australia as hedging to provide shelter from wind and barriers to stock movement. The weed has spread into pastures from these hedges.
- erect, deep-rooted shrub to 5m high and 3m across
- densely tangled twigs ending in spines to 8cm long
- leaves are oval, 3.5cm long and 2cm wide, light green and fleshy
- flowers are white with purple dots, 1cm in diameter, with five small petals and stamens hanging downwards
- fruit are round, orange-red berries 5-10mm diameter, each contains 30-70 irregular seeds
- roots are extensive, deep and branched, can produce sucker shoots if broken.
Why is it a problem?
- the thorny bushes form dense impenetrable thickets
- becomes a nuisance along fences, creeks and around dams and leaking troughs where it blocks passage and prevents stock access to watering points
- provides excellent harbour for pests such as foxes and rabbits
- not grazed heavily by stock (due to the sharp spines) and therefore invades desirable pasture plants
- invades native vegetation after disturbance.
- Eyre Peninsula – common in coastal environments
- Northern pastoral – very common along water courses
- Northern agricultural districts and Yorke Peninsula – widespread, especially on coastal areas and watercourses
- Murray Mallee – widespread
- South East – isolated plants with heavier infestations in the south
- Central region – widespread in the northern and coastal areas.
- seeds germinate at any time of the year and seedlings compete with other shrub species
- plants can start to flower at 2 years old, flowering and fruiting can occur throughout the year (but mainly in summer).
How it spreads
- seeds are the only method of reproduction, they are carried by birds and mammals that eat the fruit
- seeds can also be moved by flood waters and in contaminated soil or produce.