Carissa macrocarpa (Natal Plum)

  • TropPlant Accession Number (TPAN): 0028
  • Botanical Name: Carissa macrocarpa
  • Common Name: Natal Plum, Large Num-Num, Noem-Noem
  • Cultivar:  Many, but four commonly used in Hawaiian Landscapes (this post does not go into cultivar distinctions)
  • Family: Apocynaceae
  • Native To: Coastal South Africa
Carissa macrocarpa 
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Landscaping Information

  • Plant Type: Shrub, Treelet 
  • Texture: Dense, Coarse
  • Form: Mound
  • Height (on average, in landscape use): 3' -15'
  • Height to Spread Ratio: 1:1 to 1:2
  • Growth Rate: Slow to Medium
  • Landscape Values: Background, Border, Edging, Facer, Filler, Foundation, Framing, Hedge,  Space Division, Erosion Control (One cultivar 'Green Carpet' can be used as a groundcover)
  • Outstanding Quality: Flowers, Fragrance, Foliage Characters, Fruit
Carissa macrocarpa as a barrier at the Waikiki Post Office
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Botanical Descriptions

  • Flowers: bright white to egg shell white, 5 petaled flower, mildly fragrant during the day, most fragrant at night, jasmine-like scent. 0.7"-2" wide flowers. Petals are pinwheel like.
  • Fruits: Red ellipsoid, high sugar and pectin content, can be tart with white sap. Fruits are eaten in its native South Africa. Fruits can be eaten fresh, but commonly used to make jams due to the naturally high pectin.
Carissa macrocarpa with fruit
Photo by Matthew Gaston
Carissa macrocarpa  fruits
Photo by Matthew Gaston

  • Foliage Color: Young/immature: light green. Mature: dark green
  • Foliage Tip: Mucronate
  • Foliage Base: Rounded to Obtuse
  • Petiole: nearly sessile, 0.1"-0.2".
  • Stipules: Thorns
  • Margins: Smooth
  • Leaf Arrangement:  Opposite
  • Leaf Shape: ovate to orbiculate 
  • Leaf Type: Simple
  • Leaf Texture: Thick, leathery, glabrous, smooth, waxy
  • Special Notes: Dark green waxy leaves emphasize the bright white flowers and vivid red fruits. Thorns on the plant make it a good barrier option.
  • Bark and Trunk: Course, gray to grayish brown,
Carissa macrocarpa with pronounced thorns
Photo by Matthew Gaston

Horticultural Information

  • Light Preference: Full Sun.
  • Light Tolerances: Semi-Sun
  • Soil Preferences: Not Particular, Dry (Xeric), Well-Drained.
  • Tolerances: Compacted Soil, Salt Air, Moderate Winds, Humidity, Regular Watering, Drought 
  • Water Requirements: Moderate, but naturally drought tolerant and would be fine without much irrigation
  • Notes on Maintenance: low maintenance, rather bullet-proof
  • Propagation: Cutting
  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 9b
  • Weed Risk Assessment Score (WRA): -1, Low Risk

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