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Friday, December 26, 2014

Flower Friday: Tis the season for Christmasberry!

Photo by Joseph A. Marcus
Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum)

Christmasberry is a woody, evergreen shrub that produces small, 4- to 5-lobed flowers that vary in color from deep lavender to bluish-white with white centers. Flowers typically appear in fall, although some specimens can flower intermittently throughout the year. Leaves are small, succulent, bright green and alternately arranged. They are linear in shape with entire margins.

Christmasberry gets its common name from the bright red, egg-shaped berries that it produces in abundance in December. It has also been referred to as Carolina desert-thorn, which is a reference to the occasional thorns borne on its branches.

Photo by Alan Cressler
Christmasberry occurs naturally along salt marsh and salt flat edges, in coastal strands, and on sandy shell mounds. Its native range covers the coastal counties of Florida's eastern and central panhandle, the peninsula and the Keys.

The nectar of the Christmasberry flowers attract a variety of butterflies and moths. The berries, while toxic to some animals, are a favorite food source for many birds. Christmasberry is a close relative of the Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Lycium chinense).


Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade or Potato)
Hardiness: North, Central and South Florida (Zones 8A-11)
Soil: Moist, saline soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 3–6+ feet tall with 3-5 foot spread
Garden tips: Christmasberry is a wetland species that is highly salt tolerant. It is best suited for coastal landscapes, but is very adaptable and can be acclimated to a variety of sites. 


Christmasberry is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants.Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.

To see where Christmasberry occurs naturally, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu/Plant.aspx?id=3149.

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