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Natal Plum


Tropical Fruit Point

​​​​​​​​Natal Plum

  • Common name: Natal Plum, Amatungulu
  • Scientific name: Carissa macrocarpa
  • Family name: Apocynaceae
  • Origin: South Africa
  • Height: 5-7 ft
  • Width: 5-7 ft
  • Growth: Moderate
  • Zone: USDA Zones 9b to 11
  • Light needs: Full sun
  • Salt tolerance: Tolerant to salt spray
  • Soil/pH/Texture: Prefers soil with good drainage and a high organic matter content, with a pH range of 5.5-6.5
  • Moisture: Prefers humid environments and consistently moist soil
  • Drought tolerance: High drought tolerance once established
  • Pests/Diseases: Generally pest and disease free. Rot root may occur if soil drainage is poor.
  • Growing conditions: Should be grown in a warm, humid area with plenty of sunlight. Soil should optimally be kept moist, but the plant can handle periods of drought. Its tolerance to salt spray makes it suitable for coastal gardens. It’s generally very low maintenance once established and does not need to be fertilized or watered regularly.
  • Characteristics: This shrub typically reaches a height of 5-7 ft, but size can vary depending on the cultivar, with some varieties only reaching 1 ft while others have been recording being as tall as 30 ft. The shape of it also varies, depending both on cultivar and how it is pruned. The foliage is densely packed, with glossy, oval-shaped leaves growing in pairs along the stem. It also has sharp spines that grow along the stem in pairs, as well as a milky sap. Flowers are white with five petals and give off a jasmine-like scent. The fruits are bright red, pointed at the tip, and edible. The plant flowers and bears fruit throughout the year.
  • Propagation: By seeds or by cuttings.
  • Wildlife: Some animals eat the fruits, although the spines may ward them away.
  • Facts: The fruits are widely used in jams, jellies, pies, and sauces. There are many cultivars which are used for different agricultural and ornamental purposes. The cultivars ‘Fancy’ and ‘Torrey Pines’ are grown for their high fruit output, while ‘Green Capet’ is used as a low hedge and groundcover. Although the fruit is edible, the rest of the plant is bitter and mildly toxic.
  • Designer considerations: It can easily be pruned into hedges of many different shapes due to its dense, compact foliage. More specifically, its sharp spines make it a great choice for a border hedge, since they deter animals from getting in (this is especially useful for those with vegetable gardens). Its densely textured foliage should be paired with plants that have smoother, broader leaves.