Native to southeastern Europe and Asia, wolfberries are quite popular in different parts of the world owing to their nutritional and medicinal value. These bright orange-red, ellipsoidal berries are popularly referred to as goji berries, especially in commercial context.
The term wolfberry is used to refer to the two identical species of perennial plants Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense. These plants are also known by a range of other names, the prominent ones being Chinese wolfberry plants, mede berry plants, and red medlar plants.
On an average, a wolfberry plant can grow on to attain a height ranging between 1 to 3 meters. Between the two species, the Lycium barbarum species is slightly taller. The leaves of these are 7 cm long and 3.5 cm wide, with a nearly elongated shape. The leaves either grow in alternate arrangement, or form groups of three or more on the shoot of the plant.
Owing to its five-petaled flower, the wolfberry plant is included in the order Solanales, a group of perennial flowering plants. Wolfberry fruits range between bright orange to red in color and have an ellipsoidal shape. They have seeds within them, the number of which may range from 10 to 60.
While the flowering season for the wolfberry spans from June to September, the plants bear fruits between August and October depending on its location. The high demand for wolfberries can be traced to their nutrient value and antioxidant properties.
How to Grow Wolfberries
Owing to the benefits of wolfberries and thanks to the fact that it is a no nonsense plant, it has become quite popular in the United States. It particularly grows well in the USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9. You can either grow this plant from its saplings or from its seeds; the former method is much more convenient though.
When planting the sapling, you need to choose an area that receives at least six hours of sunlight every day. It grows well in heavy clay and sandy soils. The hole that you dig to plant this sapling has to be slightly bigger than the roots of the same.
When planting more than one plant, make sure that you leave enough space between them, as they can grow on to attain a height of approximately 3 meters―along with considerable width.
Applying 2 inches of mulch ensures that weeds are kept at bay and the soil retains necessary moisture. In order to keep the plants healthy, you will have to use compost or general-purpose fertilizer once in a year.
Yet another interesting piece of information about these plants is their etymology. Even though it's not quite certain as to how these plants got their common name, it is believed to have been derived from the misinterpretation of the name of its genus, Lycium as lycos, which is a Greek term for the wolf.