Herb: Desert Thorn

Latin name: Lycium fremontii

Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)

Medicinal use of Desert Thorn:

The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.

Description of the plant:


3 m
(9 3/4 foot)

Habitat of the herb:

Rather alkaline places below 450 metres in deserts and creosote bush scrub.

Edible parts of Desert Thorn:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The berries can be dried and used like raisins. The dried berries can be boiled, added as a flavouring to soups, or can be ground into a powder and then used with cereal flours. Only the fully ripe fruits should be eaten.

Other uses of the herb:

Plants have an extensive root system and can be planted to stabilize banks.

Propagation of Desert Thorn:

Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. Germination is usually good and fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Pinch out the shoot tips of the young plants in order to encourage bushy growth. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel if possible, July/August in individual pots in a frame. Good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, autumn to late winter in a cold frame. High percentage. Division of suckers in late winter. Very easy, the suckers can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. Layering.

Cultivation of the herb:

Rather alkaline places below 450 metres in deserts and creosote bush scrub.

Known hazards of Lycium fremontii:

Although no records of toxicity have been seen for this species, it does belong to a family that contains many poisonous plants. Some caution should be applied, especially towards leaves or unripe fruits, though ripe fruits are almost certainly edible.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.