The Natal plum is a common and often conspicuous species in coastal
bush and sand dunes.
amatungulu is a fast-growing, ornamental shrub that is wind resistant
and can grow in coastal areas. It usually forms a dense thorny shrub
but it can grow into a small tree up to 4 m high. This species has
Y- shaped thorns; the young branches are green and all parts of
the plant exude a white, milky, non-toxic latex. Leaves are leathery,
a shiny dark green above and paler below, 20-60 x 15-35 mm, egg-shaped,
oval or almost round. The tips of the leaves are sharply or bluntly
pointed and usually with a mucro, a thorn-like point. The flowers
vary in size, up to 35 mm in diameter, are pure white and scented
like orange blossom. The flower tube is hairy within. The large,
oval red fruit is edible and is rich in Vitamin C, magnesium and
phosphorus. It flowers from spring to midsummer. A low growing form of C. macrocarpa, "Green carpet" is a popular groundcover plant which seldom grows more than knee height.
It grows in coastal bush, coastal forests and on sand dunes, from
Humansdorp northwards through Kwazulu-Natal to Mozambique.
Derivation of Name and Historical aspects
The name Carissa is derived from the Sanskrit corissa,
the name of one of the Indian species. The specific name macrocarpa
is derived from Greek words for 'large' and 'fruit'. The common
name amatungulu is the Zulu name amaTungula meaning 'fruit
of the umThungula' (Palmer & Pitman 1972).
shrub makes a good garden hedge and the fruits can be eaten raw
or made into delicious jams or jellies. This ornamental shrub attracts
birds and butterflies to the garden.
Growing Carissa macrocarpa
Plant one metre apart to form a dense, impenetrable hedge in full
sun to semi-shade in good garden soil, enriched with compost. It
can be pruned if necessary. It is best grown from seed, but can
also be grown from cuttings. Fill the seed tray with soil and compact
lightly. Treat seed with a pre-emergence fungicide and sow in the
tray, cover the seed with a thin layer of soil or compost and water
well. Store tray in a wind-free area. Once germinated, replant seedlings
into well-composted soil. Seedlings can be fed with a liquid fertilizer.
Coming from coastal areas, this plant is frost tender, but can
survive a little frost if planted in a protected spot.
References and further reading
- Joffe, P. 1993. The gardener's guide to South African plants.
Tafelberg, Cape Town.
- Palmer, E. & Pitman, N. 1972. Trees of southern Africa.
Balkema, Cape Town.
- Venter, F. & Venter, J-A. 1994. Making the most of indigenous
trees: the large num-num. Farmers Weekly 29 July 2020:
Harold Porter NBG
With additions by Yvonne Reynolds