Weed profile: African boxthorn

by admin on June 8, 2010

box-1.jpgAfrican Boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum) is identified as a high priority weed for the southern region. African boxthorn affects coastal areas, bushland, pastures and roadsides through the lower rainfall areas of southern Tasmania.

African boxthorn is one of the top ten agriculturally significant weeds in the region, for its invasiveness in pasture and hazard to stock, humans and vehicles.

African boxthorn is also regarded as a significant environmental and social weed, but performs some environmental services in coastal areas. This weed provides important habitat and protection from dogs for Little Penguins in degraded coastal areas.


Programs against African oxthorn where there are Little Penguins should be undertaken in May to August, aim to kill the weed in situ, rather than removing bushes, and should be staged so that replacement local vegetation grows up before all Boxthorn is removed.

African boxthorn is a perennial shrub with multiple white, brown or grey trunks and branches, each ending in a stout spine. The leaves are small, fleshy, bright green and may be shed from the bush during periods of drought.

Small white and purple flowers develop into fleshy orange fruit which are readily eaten and spread by birds. For this reason African boxthorn often grows around bird perches such as tall trees, bridges, sheds and fences.

There are a range of control options for African boxthorn, but many are limited by the spininess of the bushes. Boxthorn spines penetrate vehicle tyres readily and are a hazard to people controlling this weed: a number of individuals have recently required medical attention or hospitalisation for treatment of African boxthorn wounds.

Cut and paint is a particularly time-consuming and risky option in this respect. Foliar spraying may be effective on smaller bushes, but the difficulty of achieving adequate herbicide uptake is compounded by the height of tall African boxthorn and its tendency to lose leaves during periods of stress.

Click here to download a decision support tool to help land managers develop a program against African boxthorn.

Land managers should also consult the DPIW control guide for detailed information on controlling African boxthorn.

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