Lycium ferocissimum Miers

Family: Solanaceae

Common names:  African boxthorn, boxthorn
Disseminule:  Seed


Fruit a berry with numerous seeds. Seeds ovate, round or C- or D-shaped in outline, 2–2.5(2.7) mm long, 1.5–2.2 mm wide, 0.5–1 mm thick, variously dented or twisted from crowding, compressed, discoid, cross section oblong, +/– bent. Testa straw-colored, yellow, or amber to brown, glistening. Minutely reticulate, the walls of reticulations formed of fine, raised dots, but appears nearly smooth. Hilum conspicuous, in marginal notch, keyhole shaped, circular portion deeply sunken and surrounded by raised rim. Embryo linear-curved, seen twice in cross section; endosperm readily visible.

Identification considerations

Solanaceae seeds of moderate size (over 1.5 mm long) are often difficult to distinguish from one another. Characters that may aid in identification are size range, seed outline, surface reticulation (if visible), hilar shape, and embryo shape. Testa color is not a reliable character, as it may be affected by aging and length of time spent in a mature berry.

Compare with:

Solanum tampicense Dunal

Solanum torvum Swartz

Solanum viarum Dunal


South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania.

Native to South Africa.


Subhumid and semi-arid subtropical regions on drier soils; dry stream beds, roadsides, neglected areas.

General information

Lycium ferocissimum is a spiny shrub ordinarily up to 5 m tall. In Australia it was originally cultivated as a hedge plant as it grows as an impenetrable, dense thicket, but has now become a widespread weed there. Animals avoid it because of its spines, which prevent them from reaching water sources and hinder grazing. This plant can also render roads impassible if it grows unchecked. Dispersal is by seeds alone, which are spread by animals that eat the fruits.