Berries for Christmas

Christmasberry, Carolina wolfberry, Carolina desert-thorn, and creeping wolfberry are among the many common names given to this red-berried plant of coastal places.  A member of the member of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum), as we will call it, is full of fruits at this time of year.  This plant, however, often will flower and fruit throughout the entire year usually not as copiously.

It was full of flowers and fruits when Terry Greene (Class of 2019) led a walk at the Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail (TRWT) on 12/8/2019 for us …

The nightshade family includes many economically important plants such as tobacco, eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers.  Indeed, its egg-shaped fruits resemble tiny tomatoes or red peppers.  When ripe, they are said to have a sweet, tomato-like taste and can be eaten raw or cooked.

Bees are its primary pollinator, and they flock to its nectar-rich pale lavender or white 4-lobed (or sometimes 5-lobed) flowers with white centers.

This plant is a halophyte, a plant adapted to growing in saline conditions.  Below, you can see it growing in the midst of red mangroves at TRWT, as it does at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA).  It can grow to be up to 10′ tall.


These sturdy plants survive drought and tidal flooding.  In times of extended drought, all or nearly all of their succulent leaves will drop off to conserve moisture.  This well-adapted plant does well in home landscapes especially when located near a downspout or in another moist location.



%d bloggers like this: