Lycium is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The genus has a disjunct distribution around the globe, with species occurring on most continents in temperate and subtropical regions. South America has the most species, followed by North America and southern Africa. There are several scattered across Europe and Asia, and one is native to Australia. Common English names for plants of this genus include box-thorn, wolfberry, and desert-thorn. There are about 70 to 80 species.
|African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum)|
About 70-80, see text
The generic name Lycium is derived from the Greek word λυκιον (lykion), which was applied by Pliny the Elder (23-79) and Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40–90) to a plant known as dyer's buckthorn. It was probably a Rhamnus species and was named for Lycia (Λυκία), the ancient southern Anatolian region in which it grew. The berry is called lycii fructus ("lycium fruit") in old Latin pharmacological texts.
Lycium are shrubs, often thorny, growing 1 to 4 meters tall. The leaves are small, narrow, and fleshy, and are alternately arranged, sometimes in fascicles. Flowers are solitary or borne in clusters. The funnel-shaped or bell-shaped corolla is white, green, or purple in color. The fruit is a two-chambered, usually fleshy and juicy berry which can be red, orange, yellow, or black. It may have few seeds or many. Most Lycium have fleshy, red berries with over 10 seeds, but a few American taxa have hard fruits with two seeds.
While most Lycium are monoecious, producing bisexual flowers with functional male and female parts, some species are gynodioecious, with some individuals bearing bisexual flowers and some producing functionally female flowers.
Lycium has been known to European herbalists since ancient times, and species were traded from the Far East to Europe by the Romans, for example via Ariaca and the port of Barbarikon near today's Karachi, as mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. In his Naturalis historia, Pliny the Elder describes boxthorn as a medicinal plant, as does Pedanius Dioscorides in his P. Dioscoridae pharmacorum simplicium reique medicae.
Lycium, particularly L. barbarum, have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. The leaves and roots of other species of Lycium, such as L. europaeum, when mixed with water, have been used in folk medicine. The fruit of L. barbatum and L. chinense, known as goji berry, is commonly consumed as a dried fruit. The Chinese tonic gou qi zi ("wolfberry fruit") is made of the fruit of any of several Lycium species, and is used as a dietary supplement.
Invasive species include L. ferocissimum, which was introduced to Australia and New Zealand and has become a dense, thorny pest plant there. It injures livestock, harbors pest mammals and insects, and displaces native species.
Selected species edit
- Lycium acutifolium
- Lycium afrum L. – Kraal honey thorn
- Lycium ameghinoi
- Lycium amoenum
- Lycium andersonii – Anderson boxthorn, water-jacket
- Lycium arenicola
- Lycium australe F.Muell.
- Lycium barbarum – Barbary matrimony-vine, Chinese boxthorn, Duke of Argyll's teaplant, goji-berry, Himalayan goji, Tibetan goji
- Lycium bosciifolium
- Lycium berlandieri Dunal – Berlandier wolfberry
- Lycium brevipes – Baja desert-thorn
- Lycium californicum – California boxthorn, California desert-thorn
- Lycium carolinianum Walter – Carolina desert-thorn, Christmas berry
- Lycium chilense Bertero
- Lycium chinense – Chinese teaplant, Chinese wolfberry, Chinese boxthorn
- Lycium cinereum – Kriedoring
- Lycium cooperi – peachthorn, Cooper's wolfberry
- Lycium decumbens
- Lycium depressum Stocks
- Lycium eenii
- Lycium europaeum L. – European teatree, European matrimony-vine
- Lycium exsertum A.Gray – Arizona desert-thorn, littleleaf wolfberry
- Lycium ferocissimum – African boxthorn
- Lycium fremontii – Frémont's desert-thorn
- Lycium gariepense
- Lycium grandicalyx
- Lycium hassei – Santa Catalina Island desert-thorn
- Lycium horridum
- Lycium hirsutum
- Lycium intricatum
- Lycium macrodon A.Gray – desert wolfberry
- Lycium mascarenense A.M. Venter & A.J. Scott (syn. L. tenue var. sieberi)
- Lycium nodosum
- Lycium oxycarpum Dunal
- Lycium pallidum Miers – pale desert-thorn
- Lycium parishii – Parish's desert-thorn
- Lycium pilifolium
- Lycium puberulum – downy desert-thorn
- Lycium pumilum
- Lycium ruthenicum Murray
- Lycium savory D. Jacobson – South America
- Lycium sandwicense A.Gray – ʻŌhelo kai, Hawaii desert-thorn
- Lycium schizocalyx
- Lycium schweinfurthii
- Lycium shawii Roem. & Schult. – Arabian boxthorn
- Lycium shockleyi – Shockley's desert-thorn
- Lycium sokotranum
- Lycium strandveldense
- Lycium tenue L.
- Lycium tenuispinosum
- Lycium tetrandrum
- Lycium texanum – Texas wolfberry
- Lycium torreyi – Torrey's boxthorn, squawthorn
- Lycium tweedianum – tropical desert-thorn
- Lycium villosum
- Lycium savory D. Jacobson – South America
Formerly placed here edit
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