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Info Sheet PDF
Anderson's Desert Thornbush

Lycium andersonii - Native Desert Thornbush

Mature Height*: 


Mature Width*: 


USDA Hardiness Zone Range:

8 to 11

Hardy to: 


Water Requirements: 

drought tolerant

Shade Requirements:

full sun

Native to:

Origin and Adaptability:

Lycium andersonii, commonly known as Water-Jacket or Anderson's Desert Thorn, is a species of flowering plant in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Indigenous to the arid regions of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, this resilient plant is well-suited to thrive in hot, dry climates. It is adaptable to various soil types, including sandy and gravelly soils, making it an excellent choice for xeriscaped gardens and desert landscapes. It has a large fibrous root system that can extend up to 30 feet from the base of the plant.

Architectural Form and Foliage:

Lycium andersonii presents a striking architectural form with its sprawling, thorn-covered branches and narrow, silvery-green leaves. Growing to heights of up to 6 feet, this shrub forms dense thickets, providing valuable habitat and shelter for wildlife. In late spring and early summer, clusters of small, trumpet-shaped purple flowers adorn the branches, adding bursts of color to the landscape.

Floral Display and Growth Speed:

During the flowering season, Lycium andersonii produces abundant clusters of purple flowers that attract a variety of native pollinators, including bees and butterflies. The plant's growth rate is moderate, gradually expanding its size over time to form dense thickets. Regular pruning can help maintain a more compact form and encourage flowering.

Light and Water Requirements:

Thriving in full sun, Lycium andersonii requires at least six hours of direct sunlight per day to flourish. Once established, it exhibits excellent drought tolerance, requiring minimal supplemental watering. However, occasional deep watering during prolonged dry spells can promote healthy growth and flowering.

Wildlife and Pollinators:

The flowers of Lycium andersonii serve as a valuable nectar source for native pollinators, supporting biodiversity in the garden. Additionally, the dense foliage provides shelter and nesting sites for birds and small mammals, further enhancing the ecological value of this plant.

Cultural Significance and Edibility:

While not commonly used for food, Lycium andersonii holds cultural significance for Indigenous peoples of the Southwest. Historically, various parts of the plant have been used for medicinal purposes, including treatments for skin ailments and respiratory issues. Additionally, the berries of some Lycium species are edible, although caution is advised, as some may be toxic.

Challenges and Considerations:

Lycium andersonii is relatively low-maintenance, requiring minimal pruning to control its size and shape. However, care should be taken when handling the plant, as the thorns can cause irritation. Additionally, this species may spread and become invasive in some regions, so monitoring its growth and spread is recommended.

Integration into Landscape Designs:

With its striking form, colorful flowers, and ecological value, Lycium andersonii is a versatile addition to a variety of landscape designs. Landscape architects and designers can use it as a focal point in native plant gardens, as a natural barrier or windbreak, or as part of habitat restoration projects. Its adaptability and resilience make it an excellent choice for creating sustainable and biodiverse outdoor spaces.

*Height and width estimated for growth in the Tucson, AZ area. True sizes may vary.

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