African boxthorn was widely promoted as a hedge plant
the reasons African boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) is so widely established since
introduction into Australia is because it was originally promoted and grown as a hedge plant
(photo, left, is a good example). A
hardy plant, fast-growing, and covered in sharp thorns, African boxthorn made an
effective boundary “fence” between properties in some areas in the early
days of rural settlement. Its
popularity as a garden plant is another reason why we
continue to find boxthorn around
towns and homesteads.
African boxthorn produces small, orange-red
berries. Birds are very efficient at spreading the seeds over large
areas. Photo, right,
shows partly-eaten fruit..
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Most seeds are dropped underneath trees by birds – the
resultant seedling growth eventually becomes dense enough to take over the
entire shaded area, denying shelter to livestock. These thick patches
provide a perfect harbour for
feral animals including rabbits, foxes and pigs.
The problem with African boxthorn is its
invasiveness. It takes over shaded areas first (as in the photo,
left) and keeps spreading. It can seriously reduce a property’s stock-carrying capacity. And,
the plants' sharp
thorns have been known to damage the eyes of grazing animals, especially during dry
times when the animals are chasing feed next to the plants.
African boxthorn grows to a height of around 3-4m. The
plant takes on a bright green colour during its main growing period -
are a creamy colour about 10mm in diameter. The ripe, red berries are about the size of “table peas”. The plant doesn’t usually start to produce fruit until two years old. Every
limb is covered with sharp, strong spines growing to about 75mm long.
these photos for a closer look at fruit and sharp thorns...
Noxious Plants of Australia, by Parsons & Cuthbertson. Inkata Press.
Mechanical removal and stacking of plants,
using a tractor and blade, is an immediate way of
cleaning up unsightly boxthorn infestations. (Note 1. plants are
easier to remove i.e. more of the root system will come out if deep soil is moist and 2. always push the plants into
heaps well away from
desirable trees for subsequent burning - subject to
fire restrictions of course). There
will be seedlings and other regrowth from where the plants were - continue to remove
or chemically treat new growth until plants eventually
There are a variety of herbicides available, but treatment should only be
carried out when plants are actively growing. August/September are
usually the best months in north west New South Wales – as long as the
plants are NOT moisture-stressed (if leaves fall off when the plant is
lightly tapped with a stick, it's too late!). Pushing large plants out of the
ground first with a blade, as mentioned above, will reduce herbicide usage.
Glyphosate is the herbicide most used for boxthorn. It doesn't pose a
risk to the trees and if used at the right rate (NOT STRONGER THAN THE
LABEL RECOMMENDATION), and if the WHOLE PLANT is sprayed, glyphosate
will do a good job. If the herbicide is too strong, the plant will shut
down before the chemical works its way through the root system...
African boxthorn hedge in backyard of house - Ashford NSW
This shot shows how African boxthorn establishes under trees -
Croppa Cr NSW
Glyphosate 360 g/L
Various trade names
700 ml to 1.0 L in 100 L of water
Low rate on young bushes, high
rate on mature bushes. Thorough coverage is essential.
NOTE: Do not make the mix any stronger than the label
recommendation! Slow kill is a good kill.
Nice stand of boxthorn around old sheds - near Inverell NSW