Characteristics of Conkerberry Tree (Carissa spinarum) in the Wild

Carissa spinarum
The Conkerberry or Bush plum (Carissa spinarum) is a shrub or small tree of the Apocynaceae family, native to tropical Africa, South Asia, Australia, and various islands in the Indian Ocean.

Conkerberry is quite popular in Australia, where it is also called Currant bush, Ambiguously, Native currant, or Black currant. However, it is not closely related to Plums (Prunus) or true Currants (Ribes). In India, the Conkerberry is called the Wild karanda / Wild caravanda, about the related Karanda (Carissa carandas).

This tree is most often found in semiarid coastal areas on fine-textured soils such as loam and clay, in drier areas its distribution tends to be limited to areas with higher humidity such as hillsides or flooded areas.

Conkerberry has a high ecological tolerance and can live in a variety of habitats. In Australia, for example, this tree is often found in association with Brown’s box (Eucalyptus brownii), Poplar box (Eucalyptus populnea), Gidgee (Acacia cambagei), and Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla), in coastal rainforests and vine bushes.

Conkerberry is often considered a weed in grazing areas of northern Australia, as it reduces grass growing area and provides protection for pests. In addition, this tree is also able to reproduce quickly. On the other hand, Conkerberry has been used in efforts to restore small bird habitat in the disturbed rainforest and dry forest in Queensland, Australia.

 

Characteristics of Conkerberry Leaf

Carissa spinarum Leaf
Source: flickr.com/Flora & Fauna of the Mid North Coast of NSW

The leaves are shiny green, opposite, ovate to lanceolate, and 1-5 cm long.

 

Characteristics of Conkerberry Flower

Carissa spinarum Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/marcoschmidtffm

Star-shaped white flowers with a diameter of about 1 cm.

 

Characteristics of Conkerberry

Carissa spinarum Fruit
Source: Flora and Fauna of The Slopes and Plains of NSW

Berries, ovoid, 1-2 cm long, green when young and turning dark purple or black when ripe.

Ripe fruit can be eaten fresh, sweet in taste, but the milky sap of unripe fruit contains little poison.

Conkerberry is a popular food for Aboriginal people in Central Australia. This fruit is known as Merne arrankweye in Arrernte, Anwekety in Anmatyerr and Nganango in Pintupi.

 

Characteristics of Conkerberry Tree

Carissa spinarum Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/mary553

Conkerberry grows as a shrub or small tree with a maximum height of 3 meters. The bark is grayish and relatively smooth. Branches and twigs have spines 3-5 cm long. All parts of this tree produce a milky sap.

Conkerberry is a hardy tree, it is drought tolerant and has various types of soil.

 

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