Hallelujah, I found two Pale Wolfberry plants this morning! I have been looking for this plant for three years.
Identification is about 90 percent, since it is not in bloom; however, I have seen this shrub around San Luis de la Paz, Mexico. It is the only USDA listed wolfberry in my county, but may be torreyi, listed as being in one county south of me. If it is torreyi, I will submit photos and information to the USDA. It should bloom this month, but can bloom now through August. There are two within 15 feet of each other, which improves fruit set.
The edible fruit is a good source of minerals and vitamins, including A, C, and E, plus flavenoids and bioactive compounds.
Pale Wolfberry fruit has all 20 essential fatty acids, unusual for a fruit. Personal thought here: the berries can have insect larvae inside, and tribes that ate the berries ate the larvae. I suspect those 20 essential fatty acids might be from insect larvae. Scientists testing berry nutrients wouldn’t make that mistake, right? If the berries are dried and ground… who would know? That was just my thought about it, since I have eaten the berries, larva and all. Protein that doesn’t run faster than me.
Besides all those essential fatty acids, Pale Wolfberry is a nice medicinal plant. The root is ground and put into a tooth cavity to relieve a toothache, much like ground cloves, but not imported.
Bark and dried berries are called a “life medicine” in native medicine, although I am not sure what that means. In any event, scientists are investigating the dried fruit for its ability to halt or reverse cancer. That would certainly make it a life medicine.
Since Pale Wolfberry is a member of my pinyon-juniper biome, I have been looking for it for three years. Even though everything gets eaten down in long droughts, they do return for the most part. If these two small specimens do not bloom and set fruit, I will take cuttings in late summer, early fall. It does sucker, my favorite way to multiply shrubs. Either way, I will get them multiplied and into my food forest.
Birds love Pale Wolfberry, and it can be pollinated by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Because it has inch long thorns and can be evergreen in winter, it is a good protective home for smaller species. Thorns and all, it is good winter browse for both mule deer and domestic livestock. Don’t forget black bear like those Wolfberries too, so keep your eyes open when gathering.
I just found out that Lac insects make deposits on the branches and First Americans gathered the resin for shellac. To use, melt the raw resin inside a canvas tube, it drips out and leaves behind bark and bugs. Dry and powder and add ethyl alcohol to make shellac similar to what is imported. Takes a lot, but interesting from a self-sufficiency standpoint. It can be used to seal oil paintings, which wouldn’t take too many.
Pale Wolfberry: one more link in my natural circular economy can be restored for improved health for me and my food forest.