Lycium ferocissimum. Photo: J.R. Hosking © J.R. Hosking

Lycium barbarum : from Thomé's  Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany reproduced at


Lycium L., Sp. Pl. 1: 191 (1753), & Gen. Pl. 5th edn, 88 (1754); from the Greek lykion, the name of a thorny shrub believed to be a native of Lycia.

 Type species: L. afrum L.

Shrubs, often spiny, usually glabrous. Leaves alternate or clustered, simple, entire, shortly petiolate. Flowers solitary or in small groups at nodes, bisexual, actinomorphic. Calyx tubular to campanulate, unevenly 4–5–lobed, sometimes 2–lipped. Corolla funnel-shaped, creamy white to lilac, soon turning brown; limb 4–5–lobed, the lobes imbricate in bud. Stamens usually 5, unequal, inserted towards base of corolla-tube; anthers bilocular, not cohering, dorsifixed, dehiscing by longitudinal slits. Ovary bilocular; stigma capitate. Fruit a succulent berry, partially enclosed by calyx. Seeds asymmetrically D-shaped.

 A genus of c. 100 species, in temperate America, southern Africa, Eurasia and the Pacific. One endemic and three naturalised species in Australia.

 L. Haegi, Taxonomic account of Lycium (Solanaceae) in Australia, Austral. J. Bot. 24: 669–679 (1976).

Changes since the Flora of Australia treatment

There have been no changes in the species recognised for Australia since the Flora of Australia treatment.

However there has been considerable work on the phylogenetic relationships using DNA sequencing, one of the more recent being Levin & Miller's 2005 paper entitled Relationships within Tribe Lycieae (Solanaceae): paraphyly of Lycium and multiple origins of gender dimorphism in American J. Botany 92: 2044-2053 (downloadable as a pdf from the project Lycieae site - abstract of a 2006 presentation at the Solanaceae conference can be seen at

Further information about the group can be found at the project Lycieae site which brings together species lists, keys, publications and world-wide information and images of the species.

Key to species

1 Corolla 15–20 mm long; leaves at least 5 times as long as broad      

          *Lycium afrum

1: Corolla 8–12 mm long; leaves usually less than 5 times as long as broad

   2 Corolla lobes about a quarter of corolla length; stamens included or scarcely exserted; fresh leaves thick, fleshy, usually 1.5–5 mm wide     

          Lycium australe

   2: Corolla lobes a third to half of corolla length; stamens much exserted; fresh leaves slightly fleshy, some more than 5 mm wide

     3 Main branches rigid; lateral branches mostly longer than 10 mm, leafy; leaves usually obovate; berry more or less globose 

          *Lycium ferocissimum

     3: Main branches weakly arching; lateral branches usually less than 10 mm long, leafless; leaves often ovate; berry more or less ellipsoid

          *Lycium barbarum