african boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum)

Size: 
3-4m high and wide
Form: 
Shrub
Natural Distribution: 
Native to South Africa
Description: 

Boxthorn, along with boneseed and cotoneaster, were commonly provided to early settlers as quick-growing plants. It was promoted as a hardy, fast-growing hedge plant, with its thorns making an effective boundary 'fence' between rural properties. 

Boxthorn once grew prolifically along the High School foreshore, outcompeting coastal natives. Past students describe not being able to walk along the beach due to the plants long (up to 7cm) thorns! Since their removal, there can still be found the odd small boxthorn plant in this area, which needless to say, receives our prompt attention. Occasional plants continue to be found along the length of our foreshore and in our bushland. 

Boxthorn does have habitat value. It provides a good nesting site for rabbits, small birds and penguins, as the long thorns keep dogs and cats away. If a large boxthorn plant(s) is providing habitat for native animals, an alternate habitat should be established where possible, before removing the boxthorn. 

Dispersal:  Seeds are efficiently spread by birds, which love to snack on them.  

Control:  Boxthorn is one of the most painful of Taroona's Top 10 weeds to deal with. Its thorns penetrate even the toughest gardening gloves and clothing. Seedlings can be hand-pulled, while large plants must be cut and pasted. They often re-shoot, so frequent, persistent follow-up is required. Bag and remove all plant material.

Safe Alternative:  For an alternate, prickly option to provide habitat for penguins and small birds along the foreshore, we use prickly box (Bursaria spinosa). Its spines aren't nearly as long! - and it's a local native.