Potato family (Solanaceae)

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Lycium species - box thorns; wolf berry

Three species of Lycium on the island can be difficult to distinguish, especially during their summer-deciduous phase. When in leaf, L. californicum can be identified by terete leaves (round in cross-section) whereas L. brevipes and L. andersonii have flat leaves, the latter having much more elongate and narrow leaves. It should be noted that plants of all three species are similar to L. californicum when the leaves are young and small. All three Lycium species have spiny tips to the woody branches, giving these plants the common name of ‘box-thorns’. The flowers of L. californicum are small (< 0.3”) and white; those of L. andersonii and L. brevipes are 4-5-petaled and purple; with flowers of L. brevipes reaching <0.5”, and the flowers of L. andersonii are somewhat intermediate in size. These box thorns are the largest plants on the island and often grow in dense patches interspersed with the common cholla. The asian goji berry is a member of the Lycium genus. All three species have edible red berries that are popular with the birds of the island.

Lycium species 1Lycium species 2Lycium species 3Lycium species Map

Solanum palmeri

This member of the potato family is endemic to Baja California. Individual plants are found scattered around the island, but more commonly on the northern side of the island. The leaves are shaped like those of tomato plants with deeply incised leaf edges, making them look partially eaten and perhaps dissuading herbivores. The hard green fruits look almost as if someone put an elastic band around a green tomato while they were developing. Unlike many other members of the tomato family fruits of this species are not edible.

Solanum palmeri 1Solanum palmeri 2Solanum palmeri Map