Natal Plum

June 2, 2007

Plant of the Week
David Rodriguez

Natal PlumScientific Name: Carissa macrocarpa (Eckl.) A. DC.

Synonym: Carissa grandiflora

Family: Apocynaceae Carissa macrocarpa ‘Boxwood Beauty’ unripe fruit

Recommended Temperature Zone: sunset: 13,22-27

USDA: 9b-10

Frost Tolerance: Tender in Phoenix, needs some protection: foliage damaged at 28° F (-2° C),
serious damage at 24° F (-4° C)

Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade

Origin: South Africa

Growth Habits: Evergreen shrub, with a loose mounding shape, 2 to 7 feet tall (0.6-2 m), 7 to 10 feet spread (2-3 m), the height depends on the variety; stems generally thorny with forked spines, milky sap; thick, oval with shiny dark green leaves.

Watering Needs: Little to regular water in summer, tolerates drought and some salt
The Natal plum is a spiny South African shrub used as a hedge or free standing, it has interestingly formed branches and shiny deep-green leaves, offset by white and pink flowers. It grows quickly and tolerates a wide range of lighting conditions, making good barriers, hedges, low screens, and foundation plantings.

Blooming Habits:
White, fragrant, solitary, star-shaped flowers, one-to-two inch wide (2.5-5 cm), throughout the growing season.

Fruiting Habits:
In the summer and fall, the plant bears a two inch long (5 cm), egg-shaped red fruit that exudes a white astringent latex unless fully ripe. The fruit turns red when ripe, and can then be eaten out-of-hand, but also makes good cranberry-like preserves.
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!

David Rodriguez is County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For more information, call the Master Gardener ‘Hotline’ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at, click under Horticulture and Gardening.

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