Article from the Tropical Fruit News magazine of the Miami Rare Fruit Council International
by Gene Joyner

The Carissa

The carissa, or natal plum, Carissa grandiflora, is native to South Africa and is one of the most popular seaside hedge plants in South Florida because of its tolerance to salt spray and resistance to damage by wind. This large shrub grows to about 15 feet and has very thick, shiny, dark green leaves on thick branches heavily armed with sharp, branched thorns.

 This plant grows relatively slowly compared to other shrubs but makes up for it by its many uses. Carissa is excellent as a barrier or security hedge because of the large thorns; a large dense hedge of this is almost impenetrable. The plant also has white fragrant flowers about 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter for most of the year. The heaviest bloom is during the warmer months, and many varieties form large numbers of Iarge--up to 2 inches long--oval-to-ellipticalshaped reddish fruits.

The thin skin of the fruit encloses a reddish pulp with several small, almost circular seeds, and while the pulp has a white milky latex, this in no way interferes with the eating of the fruit. The fruits are eaten fresh but are most often used for sauces, jellies, and even ice cream. Sauce made from carissa is often said to taste almost like that made from cranberries.

 Due to the wide tolerance of soil types, carissa can be grown almost anywhere there is good drainage and sufficient light. Carissa is not easily damaged by cold weather either, and can be used well into Central Florida with not problems.

 Propagation of the natal plum is usually by cuttings from selected varieties that have good quality or larger fruit. It can also be propagated easily by seeds; however, seedlings may produce inferior fruit.

Many landscapers use carissa more for its ornamental value than for its fruits, and allow birds and other animals to enjoy the fruits, but some people have developed quite a liking for the fruits and purposely buy natal plum for that purpose. Carissa can also be grown well in containers and because of its attractive leaves, flowers and fruit, makes an excellent container specimen or even bonsai.

For best production and growth, fertilize carissa with a good quality fertilizer 2 or 3 times a year. There are few pests or diseases that affect this plant that require any type of spray program.

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Joyner, Gene. "The Carissa." Tropical Fruit News, Miami Rare Fruit Council. July 1994. Page 16.  Web. 7 Apr. 2017.

Published 7 Apr. 2017 LR
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