"Have you got your Christmas berries yet?" (...An old Christmas greeting the story goes). This was the time before the imported red leafed Mexican poinsettia became the popular Christmas plant. Back then people planted a multi-stem Florida native as their Christmas plant. The plant's stems could reach a height of eight feet. Narrow oblong succulent leaves sprouted from the stems so that the plant resembled the Rosemary herb. Slender stalks support small lavender and white five lobed flowers that attract bees and wasps as pollinators. Blooming time occurs in late summer and early fall. The fruit usually appears in December right around Christmas time. The fruit is a small elliptical shaped bright red berry that gives the plant the look of a decorated Christmas tree. Hence the name, Christmasberry (Lycium carolinianum).
Christmasberry is distributed in the Southern States. In Florida it is found mostly in the coastal counties. Sand dunes and mangrove forests are the preferred habitat. It grows in abundance in Matanzas Pass Preserve where, right now, the red berries are shinning in all their glory. Take a walk along the boardwalk to the back bay and look to your right and left and there they will be. Take your camera and enjoy.
by Jim Rodwell