Conservation Corner No. 6 – January 2024 by Isabella Hayden.

This is the second in our series of pieces about bird-friendly plants for the garden (last August we discussed “Kruidjie-roer-my-nie” or Melianthus Major). This month we profile a plant that isn’t that well known.

The ‘African Boxthorn’ (or Lycium ferocissimum) is an evergreen, drought-hardy shrub which occurs in coastal scrub, from Llandudno up the West Coast and across southern Africa. It’s not widely used as a garden plant but it’s very good for birds and a very effective barrier plant.

It grows up to 2.5 to 3m with a similar spread. Although it grows mostly in sandy or stony soils, it has done well in Rosebank clay, too. The roots are non-aggressive, but it has extremely vicious thorns – even the thorns have thorns! Excellent for security.
The flowers are light blue to white, appearing any time from winter through summer.

Southern Double-collared Sunbirds occasionally visit them for nectar. Orange-red fruits develop after the flowers, and all the fruit-eating birds enjoy them.

And the leaves themselves are also eaten by birds – White-backed and Red-faced Mousebirds feast on the leaves in summer.

The thorns provide excellent protection for nests, and the Cape Sparrows in your garden may build several nests in each shrub.

Photo Credits:

Article by Isabella Hayden.


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