The Natal Plum, or scientifically, the Carissa Macrocarpa, is a tree common to South Africa where it gets its common name, the Nom Nom (Num Num) Tree, because it is so good to eat. I have never seen a Natal Plum in a Nursery near me so in order to grow them I ordered seeds online. The seeds sprouted with a great germination rate (~80%) and have since began flowering after two years. The seedlings which are now quite large, are part security/privacy shrub and are going to make food –triple win.
Pros of Natal Plum
- Has thorns (keeps people out)
- Freeze tolerant down to about 20 degrees F
- Grows quickly with low fertilizer and water input
- Pest free (so far)
- Lots of Pectin, so good in jams
- Tastes like a mix between strawberries & raspberries, my kids love them.
Natal Plum Uses
Natal Plum makes a great freeze resistant privacy and security shrub. It does not get very tall, topping out at about 7 feet. It sets pretty white flowers in April.
There is at least one study that reports the leaves(Don’t eat the Natal Plum leaves) and fruits(Don’t eat when green) have antibacterial and immune boosting properties, here. This is important and studied due to the fact that Hepatitis and HIV infection are so prevalent in South Africa.
Many articles online reference a dwarf Natal Plum which only reaches 2-3 feet. The kind I have were not marketed as such and seem to be growing much taller than 3 feet already after 2 years.
Grown from seed, about 50% of the Natal Plum seedlings survived to this point. Some seem to be low and sprawling, but out of 20 original seedlings, most have a central leader which is reaching for the sky finally. Two or three of the plants died unexpectedly for an unknown reason.
After a year of being consistently watered and fertilized, most of the larger plants have started to bloom and I expect fruit this year.
Cuttings – Preferred method, as it is said to not be true to seed. This requires you to know where a good adult plant is located and have permission to take a piece to plant.
Seed – Many seed sellers online. Here is an Amazon link to Carissa Macrocarpa (Natal Plum) Seeds.
Seedling – Here is a link to a seedling Natal Plum, though I can’t guarantee it will stay active for long.
I may test a hardwood cutting on the North side of my property to see how well it does with xeriscaping. I may plant some more for privacy/security near the front of our property.
Cons of Natal Plum Tree
- Has Thorns (Big scary ones, use gloves to pick fruit)
- There are reports that the leaves are poisonous, do not eat the leaves.
- Fruit may be poisonous until ripe.
It’s rare to find a combination of good privacy, security, and food in one plant. The Num Num or Natal Plum tree fits the bill well. 5 out ot 5 stars for the lack of care needed and privacy provided. Explore other fruit trees for a food forest.