Characteristics of Natal Plum Tree (Carissa macrocarpa) in the Wild

Carissa macrocarpa
The Natal plum or Noem-Noem (Carissa macrocarpa) is a species of shrub native to southern Africa. The tree is often found in the coastal shrubs of the Eastern Cape and Natal. It grows mainly in coastal areas and on dunes.

Today the Natal plum has been cultivated as an ornamental tree and bonsai throughout the tropical world including America and Asia.

Natal plums are recommended to be planted as live hedges because of their thorns to protect the area from which animals can enter, as well as the appearance of their fruit which makes the tree look elegant as a shrub.

 

Characteristics of Natal Plum Leaf

Carissa macrocarpa Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/ssmith2107

The leaves are simple, thick, leathery, dark green, and about 3-7 cm long. The leaves are ovate to elliptical or round and pointed at the ends. The petiole is very short with a length of 3-5 mm.

 

Characteristics of Natal Plum Flower

Carissa macrocarpa Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/debbiedonella09

The flowers are like jasmine, appear individually, about 1-2 cm long, sweet-scented and pale white or pink.

 

Characteristics of Natal Plum

Carissa macrocarpa Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/tonyrebelo

The fruit is like a berry with smooth skin, egg-shaped to elliptical, and about 3-4 cm long. They are initially green when the ripe turns reddish, and purple when ripe. Each fruit contains up to about 16 flat seeds measuring 5-6 mm long, and brownish.

 

Characteristics of Natal Plum Tree

Carissa macrocarpa Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/dhoare

Natal plum is an evergreen shrub, the tree can grow to a height of 2-3 meters. The branches are very dense and have sharp spines. The bark is brownish gray, rough, and wrinkled. Every part of the tree contains sap-like milk.

The tree is very hardy, it can grow in ice-free coastal areas such as dunes and coastal forests below an altitude of 500 m asl. It also tolerates saltwater and cold temperatures up to 5 °C.

However, Natal plums are best grown in rich, well-drained soil and the sun throughout the day.

 

HOW TO CULTIVATE NATAL PLUM

Natal plums can be grown easily from seed. The seeds germinate two to four weeks after sowing. Seedling development is very slow in the first year and becomes faster with age. Trees cultivated from seed bear fruit within 2-3 years after planting.

Vegetative propagation is possible and preferred. The most efficient method is to create young branches by cutting them halfway. Then they are bent down and left to hang limply. After the young branches form a callus, in about two months, the cuttings should be removed from the mother and planted in the sand in moderate shade.

 

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