Regularity: Regularly occurring
Occurrence in North America
California, the southern half of Arizona and into northern Arizona,
along the Colorado River, and northward into Utah on the Colorado
Plateau [12,16,30] . This species also occurs in New Mexico and
northwestern Mexico .
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
3 Southern Pacific Border
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
Anderson wolfberry is a native desert shrub . It is spiny, rounded,
and much branched, obtaining a height of 1 to 9 feet (0.30-2.7 m)
[12,16,17,18,25,30,33]. Twigs are light barked ; spines are
numerous and slender, 0.20 to 0.80 inch (5-20 mm) long [25,30,33];
leaves are flattened, but thick and fleshy, 0.09 to 0.66 inch (3-17 mm)
long [16,17,30,33]. This species is drought deciduous, meaning it loses
foliage in response to low moisture availability .
Anderson wolfberry roots are tough and fibrous . The root system
is relatively extensive in comparison with aerial portions [29,31],
often extending 25 to 30 feet (7.6-9.1 m) from the plant .
Anderson wolfberry commonly grows on sandy or gravelly washes, sandy or
alkali flats, mesas and slopes generally from 1,500 to 6,000 feet
(457-1,829 m) in elevation [16,30]. This species exhibits some degree
of facultative adaptation for salt tolerance and has been known to occur
on poorly drained soils with high alkalinity and/or salinity [10,23].
Anderson wolfberry also occurs on highly calcareous, well-developed
desert pavement with a strongly cemented caliche layer . Soil pH of
some sites where this species occurs ranges from 8.0 to 8.3 .
Growth of Anderson wolfberry appears to be independent of soil
temperature but not of soil pH . When cuttings were grown for 90
days in loam soil, acidification of the soil resulted in decreased dry
weight and calcium carbonate .
Anderson wolfberry is commonly found associated with the following
species: creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), foothill "yellow" paloverde
(Cercidium microphyllum), white bursage (Ambrosia dumosa), smoke tree
(Dalea spinosa), rough ephedra (Ephedra nevadensis), hop-sage (Grayia
spinosa), pale wolfberry (Lycium pallidum), blackbrush (Coleogyne
ramosissima), burrobush (Hymenoclea monogyra), Joshua tree (Yucca
Some of these species form discrete clumps of vegetation separated by
bare areas of desert pavement. Size and spacing is irregular, and as
many as 10 different species may aggregate with interlocking foliage
Anderson wolfberry typically occurs on hot, dry sites. It often occurs
in areas with only 5 to 6.5 inches (128-162 mm) annual precipitation
Key Plant Community Associations
Anderson wolfberry occurs in some desert shrub and woodland community
types but seldom attains dominance. Wolfberry is a codominate in only
one plant association (Larrea-Lycium andersonii-Grayia). This
association occurs in the Mojave Desert of Nevada.
The publication listing Anderson wolfberry as an indicator or dominant
species is as follows:
Area Classification Authority
NV, Mojave Desert Veg. (pas) Beatley 1969
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
More info for the term: cactus
KO23 Juniper - pinyon woodland
KO35 Coastal sagebrush
KO38 Great Basin sagebrush
K043 Paloverde - cactus shrub
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon - juniper
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
239 Pinyon - juniper
Fire Management Considerations
In some desert communities, such as creosotebush, where Anderson
wolfberry occurs, fires tend to be infrequent due to limited fuel, wide
spacing between shrubs, and sparse ground cover . Many desert
perennials are poorly adapted to burning. Recurrent fires appear to
select for short-lived desert shrubs at the expense of long-lived
species  such as Anderson wolfberry. Postdisturbance recolonization
by long-lived species is very slow initially and may require hundreds of
years [4,25]. A conservative approach toward desert fire management is
Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire
The Research Project Summary Nonnative annual grass fuels and fire in
California's Mojave Desert provides information on prescribed fire and
postfire response of plant community species, including Anderson wolfberry,
that was not available when this species review was written.
The Research Project Summary Ibarra-F and others 1996 provides
information on mortality of Anderson wolfberry after prescribed fires
in buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) pastures in Sonora, Mexico.
Plant Response to Fire
Anderson wolfberry sprouts from the root crown or roots after
disturbance, and will presumably do so after fire [33,34].
Immediate Effect of Fire
Fire typically destroys aboveground parts of Anderson wolfberry, but the
degree of damage to the plant depends on fire severity. Following a
high-severity fire in a creosotebush community, most plants were reduced
to ash and mortality was almost inevitable . Following moderate
severity fires, however, intermittent sprouting occurred .
Lycium species were sampled following two June Sonoran Desert fires
. No information of the fire's severity or intensity was provided.
Results are as follows :
Burned plots and transects*
N RS %Kill %Consumption
Deadman wash site: 9 0 50 10
Saguaro site: 33 9 100 51
* N=Number of plants RS=number of plants sprouting %Kill=Mean value of
proportion of photosynthetic surface scorched or consumed by fire.
%Consumption= Mean reduction of total biomass.
survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex
off-site colonizer; seed carried by animals or water; postfire yr 1&2
secondary colonizer; off-site seed carried to site after year 2
Many long-lived desert perennials are poorly adapted to fire  and
Anderson wolfberry is no exception. Adaptations to fire are present but
are not strongly developed . This shrub does have the ability to
sprout from the root crown after disturbance [33,34], but it may take
many years for it to reach preburn densities on a burned site [4,25].
Seedling establishment of Lycium spp. was observed following a fire on a
Sonoran Desert site; these seedlings resulted from seeds surviving fire
in the soil, surviving on burned plants, or dispersed from resistant
plants within the burn, or from unburned areas .
More info for the term: shrub
Anderson wolfberry is a slow-growing shrub which appears to be a
stress-tolerant competitor and is therefore found in many older seral
communities. This species eventually dominates over other colonizing
species but gradually gives way to the stress tolerators of the climax
Flowers and Fruits: The perfect flowers of Anderson wolfberry are
pollinated by birds such as black-chinned hummingbirds. The fleshy red
berries of this plant contain many seeds [19,24]. After ingestion,
seeds are disseminated by small mammals and birds in droppings [19,24].
Seed germination: Seeds generally germinate late in the year following
summer rains. In a Nevada test site study, a large number of Anderson
wolfberry seeds germinated in the late summer of 1967 and early spring
1968 presumably as a result of 1967 summer rains . By germinating
late in the year, the seedlings have the advantage of both winter and
spring rains .
Vegetative reproduction: Root sprouting is another form of regeneration
[31,32]. Adventitious shoots form readily on broken roots . Shoots
will actually form on uninjured roots that have been exposed to the air
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Life History and Behavior
Seasonal development of Anderson wolfberry varies with seasonal climatic
conditions [26,33]. In the western United States, flowering starts in
April to June, in the southwestern United States in January to May, and
in California flowering occurs from November to April . Studies in
the Lower Colorado River Valley, Nevada, showed that leaf development
occurs in late February to March followed by flowering in mid-March to
April and fruiting in April and May .
The plant generally becomes dormant in late May through January
depending on the amount of available moisture [9,29]. Leaf fall was
found to coincide with high temperatures and depletion of soil moisture
. A study in the Rock Valley, Nevada, found that high winter
temperatures delayed leafing . New leaves normally occur on
established stems even in dry years, but new shoots generally are
produced only in relatively moist growing seasons .
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Lycium andersonii
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lycium andersonii
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Other uses and values
Native Americans used the fleshy berries of Anderson wolfberry either
fresh or boiled and then dried them for later use . This shrub is
also used as an ornamental valued chiefly for its showy red berries
Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites
No specific information is available on Anderson wolfberry's value for
rehabilitating disturbed sites. Lycium spp., however, have been used to
rehabilitate abandoned desert farmlands in the Sonoran desert lowlands,
disturbed sites in Red Rock, Arizona, and disturbed lands in the Mojave
Desert [11,22]. In the Sonoran Desert lowlands and in Red Rock,
Arizona, sites were restored by establishing berms on the contour, and
then seeding with wolfberry (Lycium spp.) and other desert shrubs .
Desert shrub transplants should be protected from grazing animals to
ensure establishment and survival . In addition, summer annuals
(Salsola spp.) must be removed from around the transplanted shrubs to
reduce competition for water, and some of the nutrient resource must be
returned to the soil .
In desert washes Anderson wolfberry grows in dense thorny thickets which
provide good cover for quail and other small wildlife [7,8]. In
southern Arizona, Anderson wolfberry provides resting and feeding cover
for masked bobwhite quail . Wolfberry provides midday shade and is
open around the base to allow easy escape from predators .
Mercury Valley, Nye County, Nevada . Selected values are as
Percent dry weight
N P Na K Ca Mg Si
shoot - .10 .010 2.12 2.65 .24 .04
leaf 3.26 .12 .013 5.58 11.64 1.44 .05
ppm dry weight (micrograms)
Zn Cu Fe Mn B Sr
shoot 9 3 90 5 12 77
leaf 41 4 162 33 65 648
In the lower Colorado River Valley, Arizona, researchers found that the
gross energy for Anderson wolfberry was lowest in January and February,
but stayed between 4.0 and 5.0 kcal/g all year. Crude protein was
highest in the spring at approximately 0.075 percent and decreased
through summer, fall, and early winter to approximately 0.05 percent
. Phosphorus levels generally decreased in the summer and fall and
were highest in the spring. B-carotene levels were greatest in the late
winter when growth was active .
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
burros [9,12]. In the lower Colorado River Valley, Arizona, this shrub
can provide an important source of phosphorous and B-carotene for feral
burros in late summer and fall when other more preferred species were
The red berries are eaten by some birds and mammals [8,16]. Berries of
this plant constituted 2 percent of the diet of chukar partridges living
on the eastern desert ranges of California. In some areas of southern
Nevada, the fleshy leaves and juicy berries provide part of the
succulence permitting Gambel quail to occupy desert areas devoid of
drinking water. Ord kangaroo rats are also known to eat these berries
. Black-chinned hummingbirds are attracted to Anderson wolfberry's
Lycium andersonii is a species of flowering plant in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Its common names include water-jacket, redberry desert-thorn, Anderson thornbush, Anderson's desert thorn, Anderson boxthorn, Anderson lycium, Anderson wolfberry, and squawberry.
The species is native to the Southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, where it is distributed in New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, Baja California, Sinaloa, and Sonora. It grows in many habitat types and plant communities, including pinyon-juniper woodland, creosote bush scrub, sagebrush scrub, chaparral, and coastal sage scrub.
This plant is a shrub growing up to about 2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in) in maximum height. It grows from a large fibrous root system which can extend over 9 metres (30 ft) from the base of the plant. The shrub is rounded in shape with many branches covered in many thin spines up to 2 centimetres (0.79 in) long. The flat leaves are thick and fleshy, measuring up to 1.7 centimetres (0.67 in) long. They are shed from the plant in dry conditions. The flowers have funnel-shaped white or purple-tinged corollas up to a centimeter long. The fruit is a red or orange berry less than a centimeter long.
This plant grows in sandy, gravelly washes and on slopes and mesas. It tolerates some soil salinity and alkaline soils such as caliche. It thrives in hot, dry climates. It is rarely dominant in the local flora. Common associates include creosote bush (Larrea tridentata), yellow palo verde (Parkinsonia microphylla), white bursage, (Ambrosia dumosa), smoke tree (Psorothamnus spinosus), Nevada ephedra (Ephedra nevadensis), hop sage (Grayia spinosa), pale wolfberry (Lycium pallidum), blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima), singlewhorl burrobrush (Hymenoclea monogyra), and Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia).
- Lycium andersonii. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN).
- Lycium andersonii. NatureServe. 2012.
- Lycium andersonii. Calflora.
- "Anderson boxthorn". Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation and Virginia Tech. vTree.
- Tesky, J. L. 1992. Lycium andersonii. In: Fire Effects Information System. USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
- "Lycium andersonii". The Jepson Manual eFlora. 2012. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
Names and Taxonomy
Anderson desert thorn
Gray [12,16,30]. Recognized varieties and forms are as follows: Lycium
andersonii var. andersonii Gray, Lycium andersonii var. wrightii Gray,
and Lycium andersonii forma deserticola C.L. Hitchcock [12,16].
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