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Lycium barbarum

Lycium barbarum
Lycium barbarum fruits
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Euasterids I
Order: Solanales
Family: Solanaceae
Genus: Lycium
Species: L. barbarum
Binomial name
Lycium barbarum
  • Boberella halimifolia (Mill.) E.H.L.Krause
  • Jasminoides flaccidum Moench
  • Lycium halimifolium Mill.
  • Lycium turbinatum Veill.
  • Lycium vulgare Dunal
  • Teremis elliptica Raf.

Lycium barbarum (simplified Chinese: 宁夏枸杞; traditional Chinese: 寧夏枸杞; pinyin: Níngxià gǒuqǐ) is one of two species of boxthorn in the family Solanaceae from which the goji berry or wolfberry is harvested, the other being Lycium chinense (Chinese: 枸杞; pinyin: gǒuqǐ). It is native to southeastern Europe and Asia.[2]

It is also known as Chinese wolfberry,[3] Chinese boxthorn,[3] Himalayan goji,[3] Tibetan goji,[3] mede berry, barbary matrimony vine,[3] Duke of Argyll's tea tree,[3] Duke of Argyll's tea plant,[3] Murali (in India),[4] red medlar, or matrimony vine.[3]


  • Description 1
    • Leaves and flower 1.1
    • Fruit 1.2
  • Etymology 2
  • Cultivation 3
    • China 3.1
      • Pesticide and fungicide use 3.1.1
    • United Kingdom 3.2
      • Importation of mature plants 3.2.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7


Lycium barbarum illustration from Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, by Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, 1885, Gera, Germany.

L. barbarum is a deciduous woody perennial plant, growing 1–3 m high. It is grown in North China, primarily in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Leaves and flower

Wolfberry leaves and flower

L. barbarum leaves form on the shoot either in an alternating arrangement or in bundles of up to three, each having a shape that is either lanceolate (shaped like a spearhead longer than it is wide) or ovate (egg-like). Leaf dimensions are 7-cm in length by 3.5-cm broad with blunted or round tips.

The flowers grow in groups of one to three in the leaf axils. The calyx (eventually ruptured by the growing berry) consists of bell-shaped or tubular sepals forming short, triangular lobes. The corolla are lavender or light purple, 9–14 mm wide with five or six lobes shorter than the tube. The stamens are structured with filaments longer than the anthers. The anthers are longitudinally dehiscent. Plants are self-pollinating, but may be cross pollinated by insects. In the northern hemisphere, flowering occurs from June through September and berry maturation from June to October, depending on the latitude, altitude, and climate. where frost does not occur fruiting is continuous and plants do not lose their leaves.


L. barbarum produces a bright orange-red, ellipsoid berry 1–2-cm deep. The number of seeds in each berry varies widely based on cultivar and fruit size, containing anywhere between 10–60 tiny yellow seeds that are compressed with a curved embryo. The berries ripen from July to October in the northern hemisphere.


Lycium, the genus name, is derived from the ancient southern Anatolian region of Lycia (Λυκία).[5] The fruit is known in Traditional Chinese medicine references as Fructus Lycii, which is Latin for "Lycium fruit".

In the English-speaking world, the name "goji berry" has been used since the early 21st century. The word "goji" is an approximation of the pronunciation of gǒuqǐ (枸杞), the name for the berry producing plant in several Chinese dialects, including Hokkien and Shanghainese. This name possibly derives from the same roots as the Persian language term gojeh (گوجه) which means "plum/berry".

Other common names are "the Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree"[3] and "matrimony vine".[3]

In Tibetan the plant is called dretsherma (འདྲི་ཚིར་མ། ), with dre meaning "ghost" and tsherma meaning "thorn".



The majority of commercially produced wolfberries come from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of north-central China and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China, where they are grown on plantations. In Zhongning County, Ningxia, wolfberry plantations typically range between 40 and 400 hectares (100–1000 acres or 500–6000 mu) in area. As of 2005, over 10 million mu have been planted with wolfberries in Ningxia.[6]

Cultivated along the fertile aggradational floodplains of the Yellow River for more than 600 years, Ningxia wolfberries have earned a reputation throughout Asia for premium quality sometimes described commercially as "red diamonds".[7] Government releases of annual wolfberry production, premium fruit grades, and export are based on yields from Ningxia, the region recognized with

  • The largest annual harvest in China, accounting for 42% (13 million kilograms, 2001) of the nation's total yield of wolfberries, estimated at approximately 33 million kilograms (72 million pounds) in 2001.
  • Formation of an industrial association of growers, processors, marketers, and scholars of wolfberry cultivation to promote the berry's commercial and export potential.
  • The nation's only source of therapeutic grade ("superior-grade") wolfberries used by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.[8]

In addition, commercial volumes of wolfberries grow in the Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia, Qinghai, Gansu, Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Hebei. When ripe, the oblong, red berries are tender and must be picked carefully or shaken from the vine into trays to avoid spoiling. The fruits are preserved by drying them in full sun on open trays or by mechanical dehydration employing a progressively increasing series of heat exposure over 48 hours.

Wolfberries are celebrated each August in Ningxia with an annual festival coinciding with the berry harvest.[6] Originally held in Ningxia's capital, Yinchuan, the festival has been based since 2000 in Zhongning County, an important center of wolfberry cultivation for the region.[6] As Ningxia's borders merge with three deserts, wolfberries are also planted to control erosion and reclaim irrigable soils from desertification.[9]

China, the main supplier of wolfberry products in the world, had total exports generating US$120 million in 2004. This production derived from 82,000 hectares farmed nationwide, yielding 95,000 tons of wolfberries.[7]

Pesticide and fungicide use

pesticides are conventionally used in commercial wolfberry cultivation to mitigate destruction of the delicate berries by insects. Since the early 21st century, high levels of insecticide residues (including fenvalerate, cypermethrin, and acetamiprid) and fungicide residues (such as triadimenol and isoprothiolane), have been detected by the United States Food and Drug Administration in some imported wolfberries and wolfberry products of Chinese origin, leading to the seizure of these products.[10]

China's Green Food Standard, administered by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture's

  • L. barbarumFlora of China citation for
  • United States Department of Agriculture
  • Plants For A Future database
  • Montana plant
  • Lycium Fruit: Food and Medicine (2007) (Subhuti Dharmananda, Institute for Traditional Medicine)

External links

  • Ai, Changshan (2002). Zhi Bu Liang Yi Hua Gou Qi (A Word About Lycium chinense, Effective for Therapy and Nutrition). Changchun, China: Jilin Ke Xue Ji Shu Chu Ban She. ISBN 7-5384-2402-4. ISBN 978-7-5384-2402-7.
  • Gross, P.M./Zhang, R./Zhang, X. (2006). Wolfberry: Nature's Bounty of Nutrition and Health. BookSurge Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4196-2048-5
  • Oyama, Sumita (1964). Kuko o Aishite Junen (Lycium chinense in Favorable Use for Ten Years). Tokyo, Japan: Shufu no Tomosha.
  • Shufo no Tomosha (1963). Kuko no koyo (Medicinal and Therapeutic Effects of Lycium chinense). Tokyo, Japan.
  • Takayama, Eiji (1966). Jinsei no Honbutai wa Rokujissai Kara: Furo Choju Kuko no Aiyo (The Real Stage in Life Begins at Sixty: Habitual Use of Lycium chinense for Longevity). Tokyo, Japan: Koyo Shobo
  • Zhang, Yanbo (2000). Molecular Approach to the Authentication of Lycium barbarum and its Related Species. M. Phil. thesis. Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Zhao, Yue (2005). The Market Prospect of Ningxia Wolfberry/Wolfberry Products in China. Thesis. Netherlands: University of Professional Education Larenstein Deventer.
  • Daugs, Donald R. Grow a Superfood, Goji Berries, Countryside Magazine, May/June 2014 pp. 63–67

Further reading

  1. ^ "The Plant List". 
  2. ^ Flint, Harrison Leigh (1997). "Lycium barbarum". Landscape plants for eastern North America: exclusive of Florida and the immediate Gulf Coast. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. p. 326.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Lycium barbarum"GRIN Taxonomy for .  
  4. ^ Environment and Plant Life in Indian Desert, David N. Sen, Geobios International, 1982
  5. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  6. ^ a b c [6] Xinhua News Agency, Opening ceremonies of Ningxia wolfberry festival, August 3, 2005.
  7. ^ a b [7] Staff reporter, Wolfberry festival to be held in Ningxia, China Daily, July 19, 2004.
  8. ^ [8] Staff reporter, China's first provincial-level wolfberry association established, People's Daily Online, August 19, 2001.
  9. ^ [9] Yunyun L. Dry no more., October 11, 2008.
  10. ^ "IMPORT ALERT IA9908". Archived from the original on 6 January 2008. 
  11. ^ Pathbreaking Newsletter Promotes Development of Organic Sector in China Lila Buckley. Worldwatch Institute. 28 February 2006.
  12. ^ GAIN Report #CH1072. Dueling Standards for Organic Foods 2001 Ralph Bean and Xiang Qing. USDA Global Agriculture Information Network Foreign Agricultural Service. 12 Dec 2001.
  13. ^ The Movement Toward Organic Herb Cultivation in China Subhuti Dharmananda. Institute for Traditional Medicine. January 2004.
  14. ^ [10] Staff Reporter. The commercial legend of goji. Selling a Chinese crop under the Tibetan flag. TibetInfoNet, July 29, 2007.
  15. ^ A Touch Of Argyll In Norfolk Julia Page in The Corncrake, Colonsay , Scotland " I was intrigued to discover that the common name of lycium halimifolium is the Duke of Argyll's Tea-tree or Teaplant and was keen to discover how this name came about. I succeeded with the help of my friend Craig ( nice Scottish name ) at Kew Gardens Library and a historical Who's Who. Accessed November 2006
  16. ^ Government Launches Consultation On Future Of Legal Protection For Hedgerows Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 15 January 2003. Retrieved 6 September 2006.
  17. ^ The Novel Foods and Novel Food Ingredients Regulations 1997
  18. ^ Responses on goji berries reviewedFood Standards Agency, June 2007,
  19. ^ Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, April, 2008. Prohibited Import of Goji Plants. April 30, 2008
  20. ^ Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture


See also

Importation of Wolfberry plants into the United Kingdom from most countries outside Europe is illegal, due to the possibility they could be vectors of diseases attacking Solanaceae crops, such as potato or tomato.[19] At present only the US state of Pennsylvania requires inspection of Wolfberry plants. There have been cases of Goji Mite infections in Pennsylvania and California. The mites have been found on wild plants in Utah and do have the potential to infect other Solenaceae family plants, but there is not documentation of such infections occurring in the United States.[20]

Importation of mature plants

On June 18, 2007, the FSA (UK Food Standards Agency) stated that there was a significant history of the fruit being consumed in Europe before 1997, and has removed it from the Novel Foods list.[17] It is now legal to sell the wolfberry in the UK as a food as reported by the British Food Standards Agency,[18] but see section below: Marketing claims under scrutiny in Europe. United States Lycium barbarum has become a high demand plant in the United States. Nearly all major nursery catalogs now carry plants and there are many suppliers found on various web sites. There are a number of varieties available, ranging from leaf producing plants to fruit producing varieties. Most listed plants are hardy zones 5-9. One variety, Phoenix Tears is hardy zones 3-10. This variety produces fruit year round in warmer climates. The nutrient profile of both leaves and fruit is well documented on this variety. Berries and leaves produced in the United States are probably more pesticide free than those produced in China.

The plant continues to grow wild in UK hedgerows. On 15 January 2003, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched a project to improve the regulations protecting traditional countryside hedgerows, and specifically mentioned Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree as one of the species to be found growing in hedges located in Suffolk Sandlings, Hadleigh, Bawdsey, near Ipswich, and Walberswick.[16]

The Duke of Argyll introduced Lycium barbarum into the United Kingdom in the 1730s where it is known as Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree.[3] It was and still is used for hedging, especially in coastal districts. Its red berries are attractive to a wide variety of British birds.[15]

United Kingdom


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