Natal Plum
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Natal Plum
ntroduced Photo: Aarti Khale
Common name: Natal Plum
Botanical name: Carissa macrocarpa    Family: Apocynaceae (Oleander family)
Synonyms: Carissa grandiflora, Arduina macrocarpa, Arduina grandiflora

Native to South Africa, Natal plum is a dense, closely branched spiny evergreen shrub or small tree, growing up to 20 ft tall. Most of the cultivated forms are much smaller, though. The dark glossy green leaves are ovate, 1-3 in long, thick and leathery, and arranged in opposing pairs. The branches are armed with forked spines, about 1-2 inches long. Broken twigs secrete a white milky sap. Natal plum produces an abundance of white starlike flowers with five thick and waxy petals. The flowers are about 2 inches across and sweetly fragrant, like orange flowers, especially at night. The bright red, edible, plum-shaped fruit, about 2 inches long, can be used to make jam. Flowers and fruit are quite showy and are often borne on the plant simultaneously. Natal plum blooms almost all year long and most of the time both flowers and fruit are present. Natal plum is the perfect hedge plant. Its dense foliage makes it a good screen, and its thorns make it an effective barrier as well.

Identification credit: Tabish Photographed in Nasik, Maharashtra.

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