Merry Christmasberry!

Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, Succulent

Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum) is so named for its lustrous red berries that mostly appear in the early winter months. Hurricane Irma seems to have stimulated significant flowering/fruiting this year at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA).

Carolina desert-thorn is another name for this succulent shrub of coastal marshes. In our area this plant is sometimes and somewhat spiny, though populations in other regions likely have a more spiny nature.

Its species name, carolinianum, belies its coastal range, the southeast U.S. Its genus name, Lycium, reportedly is derived from the Greek name of a medicinal tree from Lycia (Asia Minor).

The leaves of Christmasberry are succulent and linear. The plant is deciduous elsewhere. Sometimes, it will drop its leaves in response to drought conditions in warmer places.

Flowering occurs throughout the year, usually peaking in late fall. Sometimes, flowering and fruiting are simultaneous. The solitary lavender flowers are borne on slender stalks in the leaf axils …

Birds eat and spread the bright red fruits …

Aboriginal people also consumed the fruits, which are rich in vitamins A, C, and E, as well as flavonoids. They are edible but not especially yummy.

Christmasberry can grow to 6 to 8′ tall and maintains an attractive open form shown below at the Guana Tolomato Mantanzas National Estuarine Research Center, located near Ponte Vedre with a wonderful nature center well worth a visit.

Consider incorporating Christmasberry in your landscape for its different form/texture, attractive flowers, gorgeous and glossy bird-attracting red fruits, drought-tolerance, and salt-tolerance.