African Boxthorn

(Lycium ferocissimum)

What is African boxthorn?

  • African boxthorn is a significant pasture weed.
  • African boxthorn is a declared weed under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of African boxthorn are prohibited in Tasmania.

                          Generic Weed Distribution Map                                       African boxthorn with ripe fruit


How to identify African boxthorn

  • African boxthorn is a woody shrub reaching up to 4 metres in height, with glossy leaves and an extensive root system incorporating a long branched taproot. The trunk and branches are light brown and smooth when young, turning darker brown or grey with age. The twigs end in a hard, sharp spike or thorn.
  • The white flowers are usually produced in summer, although flowering can occur through most of the year. The fruit is an oblong berry approximately 10 mm long, going from a smooth green appearance to bright orange-red when ripe. Fruits contain numerous small, oval, flattened seeds. Seeds germinate at any time of the year and generally take two years to reach flowering stage.
  • African boxthorn can be confused with the native tree violet (Hymenanthera dentate). Tree violet has yellow flowers and purple or white fruits, and the leaves tend to be narrower than the leaves of African boxthorn, and sometimes have toothed margins. For information on other similar native plants, see the African Boxthorn Fact Sheet (Molonglo Catchment Group).
  • For further help in identifying African boxthorn, search the Dennis Morris Weeds and Endemic Flora database for African boxthorn illustrations. If you are still in doubt about the weed you are dealing with, contact your Regional Weed Management Officer on 1300 368 550 for help.
African boxthorn tree                     African boxthorn close up of branches

Image top right: African boxthorn fruiting branch showing ripening fruit.
Image above left: African boxthorn bush
Image above right: African boxthorn close up of branches and thorns.

African boxthorn in Tasmania

  • African boxthorn is found throughout most agricultural areas of Tasmania, including King Island and Cape Barren Island (see map). It is commonly found along fence-lines and beneath overhead wires, as well as along roadsides, railways and waterways.
  • African boxthorn invades pastures and waste areas, reducing access and causing difficulty in stock movement. The spines can injure people, animals and vehicle tyres.

What is the legal status of African boxthorn in your area?

  • The legal responsibilities of landholders and other stakeholders in dealing with African boxthorn are laid out in the African boxthorn Statutory Weed Management Plan.
  • Use Table 1 (Zone A municipalities) and Table 2 (Zone B municipalities) in the Statutory Weed Management Plan to find out whether your area falls in an eradication or containment zone.

Important Disclaimer

To the extent permitted by law, the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (including its employees and consultants) excludes all liability to any person for any consequences, including but not limited to all losses, damages, costs, expenses and any other compensation, arising directly or indirectly from using information or material (in part or in whole) contained on this website.



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