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[DUKE-OF-ARGYLLE'S / CHINESE] TEAPLANT

WOLFBERRY

Lycium barbarum

Lycium barbarum or Lucium chinense
Nightshade Family [Solanaceae]  

Flowers:
month8jun month8june month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

Berries: berryZpossible        berryZred  (poisonous, unless dried)
berry8oct berry8nov berry8dec

category
category8Shrubs
category
category8Deciduous
category
category8Broadleaf
status
statusZneophyte
flower
flower8mauve flower8lilac
inner
inner8cream inner8green
morph
morph8actino
petals
petalsZ5
stem
stem8round

11th June 2009, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Wind-swept shrub close to the sea. The high density provides excellent shelter from the wind when used as hedging.


16th Aug 2010, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Most flowers are sheltering on the leeward side of the bush.


27th July 2007, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Leaves glossy, mid-green. Dead flowers fawnish, living ones light purple / mauve.


27th July 2007, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Flowers singly on short inch-long stalks. Normally with five petals, this flower has six.


16th Aug 2010, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
The first flower to emerge from a bunch at the tip of a stem. The petals have three main and un-branched purple veins,.


27th July 2007, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Five triangular-shaped purple petals joined half-way become creamy-green towards the centre, with deep-purple stripes. A column of five yellow anthers and a green-tipped, semi-globular stigma stand proud of the flower.


6th Sept 2015, brick coastline, Hall Road, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The purple pigment fades to fawn before the flowers drop off. The flower stalks emanate from a single point. Note the se[al teeth on the sepal tube on the flower on the left).


6th Sept 2015, brick coastline, Hall Road, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Five white filaments with 5 fawn-coloured anthers. A white style with semi-globular pale-green stigma.


6th Sept 2015, brick coastline, Hall Road, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Sepal tube gently tapers onto the flower stalk with no visible delineation between the two. Sepal teetth triangular. Stamens and stigma project out a fair way. Corolla < 15mm across for Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant (> 15mm for Chinese Teaplant).


6th Sept 2015, brick coastline, Hall Road, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Petals don't fuse until less than half-way to base for Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant. (Petals don't fuse until more than half-way to base for Chinese Teaplant). Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant has 3 dark lines on the petals which are little-branched whereas on Chinese Teaplant they are many branched. Take your pick and make your choice...


11th June 2009, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Leaves narrow lanceolate and supposedly broadest near the middle. Un-opened flower buds almost spherical.


11th June 2009, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Contrarily, some leaves are broadest below the middle which is said to be the distinguishing characteristic of Chinese Teaplant! Leaves have conspicuous central vein, but few and faint translateral veins.


11th June 2009, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Leaves slightly hoary, as are the rounded woody branches. The straight 'clubs' are as yet un-opened flowers on their pedicels (stalks), which have very-short hairs.


11th June 2009, Hall Road, Sefton Coast, Merseyside. Photo: © RWD
Few branches have flowers in this wind-swept location.


6th Sept 2015, brick coastline, Hall Road, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Berries are scarlet-red and oval, and the only one to be found on the plant. It sits in an elongated 'egg-cup'.


6th Sept 2015, brick coastline, Hall Road, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The berries are cusped at the join with the stem and sit in an 'egg-cup'. Strikingly like a match-head both in colour and sometimes in shape.


Easily confused with: Chinese Teaplant (Lycium chinense)but that is said to have narrow lanceolate leaves that are wider below the middle rather than widest in the middle for Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant. From the above photographs, this looks a nonsense. In fact some authorities think that there is only, at best, a very tenuous distinction between the two which are very probably one and the same!

The flowers have some similarities to : a few others in the same Nightshade Family, such as Bittersweet, but the petals are not swept backwards, and the anthers are not in a single yellow column.

Distinguishing Feature : A large shrub with Nightshade-type flowers.

No relation to : The Duke of Argyll.

The berries are oblong, slightly irregular, and scarlet red.

It is used as hedging, particularly in coastal areas. The Third Duke of Argyll introduced this plant from China in the 1730's, hence the name 'Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant'.

The berries are called 'Wolfberries' and when dried are apparently edible, despite the plant belonging to the mainly poisonous Nightshade Family (which includes cultivated edible species such as Potato, Tomato, Aubergine and Paprika Peppers. Unripe berries may contain more toxins. Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant does contain some toxins: Atropine, a glucopyranoside and phenolic amides, but the plant is nowhere near as toxic as the poisonous Solanaceae. Tea brewed from the leaves can have adverse biological effects if a lot is drunk. It is now legal to be sell the berries in the UK as a novel food.

The berries are collected, dried and sold commercially as Goji berries. A so-called 'health' drink called Goji juice derived from these berries is claimed to have beneficial effects, but these claims may not have been substantiated in practice. There are drug interactions when consuming these berries, both with Warfarin and with pharmaceuticals for treating diabetes and blood-pressure. They can also cause photo-sensitization of skin and exacerbate hay-fever allergies. They also contain high levels of Oxalate which may cause kidney problems. Imbiber beware!

SUNSCREEN LOTIONS

Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant contains, amongst many other chemicals, Scopoletin, a Coumarin that is widespread in nature along with coumarin itself and Aesculetin [sometimes spelled 'Esculetin']. It is a 7-hydroxy coumarin. This and its analogues are produced commercially by synthetic processes to act as sunscreens in suncreams because of their high absorption of the harmful ultraviolet wavelengths from the sun. In fact, on absorbing UV it fluoresces with a blue glow and was instrumental in developing spectrofluorimetric analysis of the total coumarins present in certain plants expressed as scopoletin equivalents. It is also an acetylcholine inhibitor.


  Lycium barbarum  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Solanaceae  

Distribution
 family8Nightshade family8Solanaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Lycium
Lycium
(Teaplants)

[DUKE-OF-ARGYLL'S / CHINESE] TEAPLANT

WOLFBERRY

Lycium barbarum

Lycium barbarum or Lucium chinense
Nightshade Family [Solanaceae]  

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