Friday, March 27, 2009

Ever heard of a wolfberry plant?

We have oodles of these. I took the picture outside my backdoor at the dairy.
Wolfberry is drought-adapted, losing leaves during dry times and regrowing them when moisture is available. No irrigation is necessary after they are established. They are useful because they have many functions. They tend to grow dense and thorny, providing cover in which small birds can hide from predators. Their small lavender flowers, which emerge any time enough moisture is available, but are most abundant January through March, attracting pollinators. Though not tubular, I've seen hummingbirds foraging on them. Some pollinating insects that come to the flowers may, in turn, attract insectivorous birds. Wolfberry fruits are small, orangish-red berries that are eaten by wildlife (and by humans who like special desert treats). I think of them as little tomatoes, and indeed they are in the same family. Birds that eat fruit will like them too! Wolfberry can become a large shrub under the right conditions, like the 6-foot-plus ones in the front yard of the University Boulevard Nature Shop. In poorer, drier soils they will stay smaller. They grow slowly, so if you buy a small individual in a one-gallon pot, allow it quite a while to fill in. Wolfberries have an unrefined, scrubby appearance, though they will appear quite lush when fully leafed. It is a good shrub for filling in background areas along fences and walls, or other places to which you don't need easy access. Keeping them in the background may help if you think they look unsightly during the leafless times of the year. Planting them in a landscape that harvests and infiltrates rainwater will assure maximum soil moisture and help keep the plant lush longer. Information found at :