Russian Box Thorn
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Russian Box Thorn
ative Photo: Prashant Awale
Common name: Russian Box Thorn
Botanical name: Lycium ruthenicum    Family: Solanaceae (Potato family)

Russian Box Thorn is a spiny shrub up to 1.8 m tall. Shoots are greyish to white, hairless. Leaves are 0.6-2.5 cm long, 1-1.5 mm broad, linear to spoon-shaped, fasciculate, cylindrical, blunt-tipped. Spines are up to 1 cm long. Flowers are borne in leaves axils, solitary or paired. Flower-stalks are 3-4 mm long, up to 7 mm in fruit, slender. Sepal-cup is 2.5-3.5 mm long, bell-shaped to broad tubular, shallow. Sepals are about 1 mm long, blunt or pointed, often minutely ciliolate. Flowers are funnel-shaped, tube 5-7 mm long, petals about 1/3 the tube size, blunt, throat pubescent. Stamens are somewhat protruding, filaments slender. Berry is spherical, 5-8 mm broad, black. Seeds are kidney-shaped, about 2 mm long, brown. It can be seen growing wild along roadsides and saline deserts and sands at altitudes ranging from 400-3000 m in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, SW Asia and in some parts of Europe. In India, it grows at high altitude areas of Kashmir. Flowering: June-August.
Medicinal uses: The plant is used as an ointment to treat blindness in camels. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.

Identification credit: Gurcharan Singh
Photographed in Nubra Valley, Ladakh.
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