From the Archives
of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia, inc.
by Roger Goebel, RFCA Capricornia Branch
Scientific Name: Carissa grandiflora
The Natal plum or Carissa grandiflora is not related to the plums of the genus Prunus
in the Rosaceae family. It belongs to the family Apocynaceae, of which
Oleander is also a member. Thirty species of Carissa are distributed
throughout the eastern hemisphere or old world tropics.
It is a
native of Natal. An evergreen shrub, it grows between 2 and 5 metres
high. It has opposite thorns on the stem that branch into two sharp
points. Leaves are bright green and round. The flowers are 30mm-50mm
(1½" to 2") in diameter, white and fragrant. The 5 petals are
twisted to the right. The bright red fruits have a paper thin skin
which encloses a reddish pulp, a milky juice and from few to many
small, flat, round seeds. The fruits are 25mm-50mm (1" to 2") long or
almost round, depending on varieties.
Fruits are eaten out-of-hand, stewed in a sauce, resembling cranberry sauce in flavour or made into jellies, syrup or pies.
is not fussy about soil type, growing on a wide variety of soils from
beach sand to heavy clay. In fact, it is very tolerant of seacoast
conditions, withstanding salt sprays. It does have a cold tolerance
problem and areas with prolonged temperatures below -5°C (24°F)
will damage the plant and reduce fruiting.
Natal plums can be
pruned into a hedge, but it will not produce as much fruit that way.
The plant has few pests and diseases. To ensure good fruiting, however,
it is necessary to plant more than 1 plant. The fruit is low in
calories, high in vitamin C and high in phosphorus and potassium.
can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. Semi-hardwood cuttings root
readily in sand or vermiculite. Hardwood cuttings of larger wood root
more slowly. Cuttings should be 100mm to 150mm (4" to 6") long and have
one or two pairs of leaves. Bottom heat and mist spray are beneficial
and hasten rooting.
Layering is very successful, as is budding
using the same method as grafting citrus. Make a T incision in the
bark, cut a shield-shaped piece containing a bud and insert under the T
incision. Wrap tightly with plastic budding tape leaving the bud
exposed so that the tape will not hinder the bud's growth.
is also successful using a whip graft, however, it grows so
successfully on its own roots from cuttings that it is grown more
commonly this way.