Flora of Northern Ireland
  • Lycium sp. - Duke of Argyll's tea plant - Solanaceae
Lycium sp.
© Paul Hackney
Lycium sp.
© Graham Day
Lycium sp.
(Map updated: March 2008)

A scrambling deciduous shrub, often spiny, with oval or elliptical leaves and small purple flowers with yellow stamens. It is particularly frequent around the coast where it is found in hedges, normally close to a house. It is an introduction from China. Two species (Lycium barbarum and L. chinense) are grouped together here - they are not easily separated, and it is doubtful if they are really specifically distinct.

The curious common name is of 19th century origin and strictly speaking applies only to Lycium barbarum. It refers to the 3rd Duke of Argyll who received this plant and a tea plant (Camellia sinensis) with their labels mixed up, and so grew it under the wrong label at his home in Middlesex, England. (From A Dictionary of English Plant Names by Geoffrey Grigson, London 1973.)

All names: Lycium sp.