African Boxthorn

Lycium ferocissimum

Family: Solanaceae

Type of weed:

Noxious Weed Class 3 and WoNS (Weed of National Significance). (See more , noxious weeds).

Flowering Months: , , ,


An erect perennial shrub growing 3m x 3m. It is characterised by its woody, thorny growth. The stems are rigid, very branched and the main stems have spines up to 15cm. The long thorns are a distinctive feature.

The leaves are smooth, fleshy and up to 3.5cm long. The plant is drought resistant and in times of moisture stress can shed its leaves, making it look dead. In some locations plants can be deciduous.

Flowering generally occurs in spring and early summer, but it may occur at any time of the year provided the conditions are right.

The flowers have five petals; white with pale blue markings and are fragrant.

Fruit set generally occurs in autumn but, again, it can occur at any time of the year depending on conditions. The berries are green when young and orange-red when ripe. Each berry contains 35–70 seeds. Seeds can germinate at any time of the year if there is adequate moisture and warmth.


This plant can be confused with Native Blackthorn (Bursaria spinosa subsp. spinosa).


Spread by seed. Fruit is commonly eaten by foxes and birds. Seeds may also be spread by water, machinery and in dumped garden waste or contaminated soil.

Impact on bushland

The plant is an aggressive invader of bushland and waterways. It has an extensive, deep, branched taproot that will sucker and produce new growth if broken. Early root growth is rapid to allow seedlings to compete with other plants. It also provides habitat for native birds, so replacement planting of native species needs to occur as a follow-up to control treatments.


. Lower Mountains such as Glenbrook (and Cumberland Plain)

Alternative planting

Native plants

Local provenance Grevilleas, Banksias and Hakeas make great hedge plants and habitat for native birds. Spiky bushes that provided shelter and protection for small native birds include:

  • Hakea teretifolia
  • Lambertia formosa
  • Leucopogon lanceolata

In the lower Mountains, plant Bursaria spinosa subsp. spinosa.

Council provides a tool, on its Mountain Landscapes website, to help you choose native alternative plantings. Choose your village, soil, vegetation community and the purpose of your planting, and the tool will give you suggestions.

There are native nurseries in several Blue Mountains villages, including Glenbrook, Lawson and Katoomba. Please also ask at your favourite local nursery.


• Seedlings can be hand pulled if all the root can be removed.
• More established small plants will need to be cut and painted using herbicide.
• Larger plants can be stem injected.

Because the berries are bird spread, it is best to treat plants before they fruit; if not bag the fruit and treat in a hot compost. Other parts of the plant can be spread to dry out off the ground and it will break down, or compost if you prefer.

For key points on these techniques:

For more info

For key points on these techniques:

Noxious Weed Class 3

Regionally Controlled Weeds

Characteristics: Class 3 noxious weeds are plants that pose a serious threat to primary production or the environment of an area to which the order applies, are not widely distributed in the area and are likely to spread in the area or to another area.

Control objective: Reduce the area and the impact of those plants in parts of NSW.

Control action: The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed.

NSW Noxious Weeds Act 1993

Refer to the NSW Department of Primary Industry’s Noxious and Environmental Weed Control Handbook.

WoNS (Weeds of National Significance)

All of the Australian governments have agreed on a list of thirty-two Weeds of National significance.

These weeds were chosen because of their:

  • invasiveness,
  • potential for spread,
  • environmental, social and economic impacts, and
  • the potential to manage them successfully.

Managing Weeds of National Significance

If you have any of these weeds on land you own or manage, you have a responsibity to manage them.

The reason these weeds have special status is that managing them requires coordination by every level of government, organisations and responsible individuals.

There is a strategic plan for each of the Weeds of National Significance, making clear how everyone is to work together, from research through to on the ground action.

For more information, visit the Federal Environment website.