Botanical Name: Carissa macrocarpa
Species: C. macrocarpa
Synonyms : Carissa grandiflora
Common Names: Natal plum and, in South Africa, the large num-num. In Zulu, as well as in the Bantu tribes of Uganda, it is called Amathungulu or umThungulu oBomvu. In Afrikaans the fruit is called noem-noem.
Habitat:Carissa macrocarpa is native to tropical and southern Africa. It grows mainly in coastal areas of South Africa. It grows in coastal bush, coastal forests and on sand dunes, from Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape northwards through Kwazulu-Natal to Mozambique..
The 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.
Cultivatiion & propagation:
Carissa macrocarpa requires warm, moist subtropical climate. It tolerates different exposures as full sun and fairly heavy shade. As a coastal plant it can deal very well with salty ocean spray. 1000 m a.s.l. (Swaziland); likely up to 1500 m.
Carissa Macrocarpa plants like well-draining, sandy soil and can thrive in a wide range of soil pH levels. This plant needs direct sunlight for at least 4 hours a day to grow well. Being a drought-tolerant species, it requires minimal water and should be watered bi-monthly. Ideal growing temperatures range from 65°F up to 100°F (18-38°C).
The broadleaf shrub grows easily from seed and can start bearing fruit within two years. Even if the fruit falls to the ground and is covered by soil, seedlings spring up in a few weeks. Vegetative propagation is a faster method to propagate Carissa macrocarpa. However, the method is not as simple as growing other plants from cuttings.
Carissa macrocarpa fruits are indeed edible and somewhat tasty. Ripe fruit is eaten raw out of hand, enjoyed in fruit salads, adding to gelatins and using as topping for cakes, puddings and ice cream; or stew with sugar. Carissa can be cooked to a sauce or used in pies and tarts. Fruit is also suitable for sweet pickles, jams, other preserves and syrup.
Carissa macrocarpa fruit is low in cholesterol, sodium free, and vitamin C, B1, B2, A, calcium, protein, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, sodium, copper and is low in fat. Carissa can be difficult to grow because the plant exudes a milky sap when cut or broken, which worsens harvest and transportation of the fruits because they can easily be damaged.
*It is enriched with iron component and is beneficial for anemic patients.
*It is also used to cure the effects of Scurvy.
*It prevents excessive secretion of bile by liver and prevents biliousness.
*It provides comfort during diarrhea.
*It effectively reduces fever.
The thorny habit of this plant can be used to keep domestic animals out of the garden, by planting a hedge or edging around beds. Carissa macrocarpa is extensively planted alongside roads and parking lots throughout South Africa.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.