Carissa macrocarpa

Carissa macrocarpa

Carissa macrocarpa, or Natal plum, is a shrub native to South Africa, where it is commomly called the large num-num. In Zulu it is called Amatungulu. In Afrikaans the fruit is called Noem-Noem (the pronunciation starts with a clicking sound on the n).

C. macrocarpa deals well with salt-laden winds, making it a good choice for coastal areas. It is commonly found in the coastal bush of the Eastern Cape and Natal. It grows in a loose mounding shape to heights of 2 to 7 feet, reaching a spread of 7 to 10 feet. A quick grower and tolerant of a range of light conditions, the Natal plum is a popular choice for hedges and barriers.

Natal plums produce shiny, deep green leaves and snowy white flowers whose perfumed scent intensifies at night. They bloom for months at a time. The ornamental plump, round, crimson fruit appears in summer and fall at the same time as the blooms. In moderate, coastal areas the fruits appear through the year. The fruit can be eaten out of hand or made into pies, jams, jellies, and sauces.

All the Carissa species are spiny, evergreen shrubs containing latex. The leaves are thick and leathery. Some Carissa species are valued as garden plants because of their flowers, which are white, or nearly so, scented and borne in profusion. Other species produce insignificant flowers with little or no scent. Flowers are solitary or borne in clusters. The fruit (a berry) of all Carissa species is edible and is rich in Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. The fruit of C. macrocarpa is especially delicious and is used to make jelly. They are eagerly consumed by birds, which also distribute the seed. Carissa species are grown from seed or cuttings and tolerate slight frost.

It appears in the South African National tree list as number 640.3.

A traditional food plant in Africa, this little-known fruit has potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.

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