Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum)
Click on terms for botanical definitions.
Christmasberry is a woody, evergreen shrub that produces small, 4- to 5-lobed flowers that vary in color from deep lavender to bluish-white with white centers. Flowers typically appear in fall, although some specimens can flower intermittently throughout the year. Leaves are small, succulent, bright green and alternately arranged. They are linear in shape with entire margins.
Christmasberry gets its common name from the bright red, egg-shaped berries that it produces in abundance in December. It has also been referred to as Carolina desert-thorn, which is a reference to the occasional thorns borne on its branches.
The nectar of the Christmasberry flowers attract a variety of butterflies and moths. The berries, while toxic to some animals, are a favorite food source for many birds.
Christmasberry is a close relative of the Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Lycium chinense).
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade or potato family)
Native range: Coastal counties of Florida’s eastern and central panhandle, the peninsula and the Keys
To see where natural populations of christmasberry have been vouchered, visit florida.plantatlas.usf.edu.
Soil: Moist, saline soils
Exposure: Full sun
Growth habit: 3-6’ tall with 3-5’ spread
Garden tips: Christmasberry is a wetland species that is highly salt tolerant. It is best suited for coastal landscapes, but is very adaptable and can be acclimated to a variety of sites.
Christmasberry is often available at nurseries that specialize in native plants. Visit PlantRealFlorida.org to find a native nursery on your area.