Scientific: Carissa macrocarpa (synonym C. grandiflora)
Common: Natal plum, large num-num
Family: Apocynaceae
Origin: South Africa

Pronounciation: Ka-RIS-sa ma-cro-CAR-pa

Hardiness zones:
12-13, 16-24
USDA 9-11

Landscape Use: Foundation plant, informal hedge, barrier plant, ground cover, filler, formal edging spring flowering accent, raised landscape planters, mesic and oasis landscape design themes in Phoenix. Natal plum dwarf cultivars have the highest landscape use potential in today's world of smaller, more compact landscape spaces.

Form & Character: Variable shrubby rounded form ranging from prostrate to upright to spherical to flattened and spreading, oriental, thick, tough.

Growth Habit: Evergreen woody shrub, slow to vigorous depending on cultivar ranging in height from 18 inches to 10 feet.

Foliage/texture: Leaves are medium to dark green, generally rounded to oval shape w/ mucronate (pointed, spine-like) tip, leathery, glabrous, margins entire. All plant parks produce a white latex that might be a skin irritant to some people. Stems at axillary meristems have a forked pair of stipular thorns; medium coarse texture.

Flowers & fruits: White, fragrant star-shaped (5 petals) flower to 2 inches early to mid spring, aromatic jasmine fragrance; fruits are burgundy colored and oval, 1 to 2 inches long, ripens in late to fall. Natal plum fruit are edible with a tasty sweet cranberry taste when they get really dark red.

Seasonal color: White flowers in early to mid spring, usually in early April in Phoenix.

Temperature: Reddish-purple leaves in winter due to chilling injury, foliage injured below 26oF, generally heat loving but prone to sudden death of branches during the high heat of summer. Foliage will quickly re-green in spring.

Light: Sun and shade, sun best, sparse in shade.

Soil: Tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions from clay to sandy, though will develop micronutrient related chlorosis if pH exceeds 8.

Watering: Drought tolerant mesic shrub once established. Apply deep, monthly irrigations in the summer.

Pruning: Easily pruned to shape.

Propagation: Cutting

Disease and pests: Slow growing cultivars more subject to fungal root rot if soil drainage is poor; otherwise, disease and pest free.

Additional comments: A versatile, salt-tolerant shrub with many cultivars for use in southwestern landscapes - most are dwarf and semi-dwarf, problem free. Natal plum is a traditional food plant in South Africa because of the highly nutritious, edible fruits. Fruits can be eaten fresh or made into pies, jams, jellies, and sauces. Some of the many popular local cultivars include:
    'Green Carpet'
    'Boxwood Beauty'