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Home / Lifestyle / Gardening / GARDENING

GARDENING

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Plant of the Month: Natal Plum
Over the past few days, I received
several calls regarding the identification
of a shrub-like plant that
is growing along the Seawall on
Galveston Island. The impetus for
so many calls was not surprising.
When a shrub produces an
abundance of eye-catching flowers,
it’s likely to catch the eye of
inquisitive gardeners. When the
shrub can produce an attractive
floral display along the Gulf shore,
it is even more amazing as the salt
spray from the Gulf can be a hostile
growing environment for many
types of landscape plants.
The shrub in question is commonly
known as natal plum (Carissa
macrocarpa). Despite its
common name, natal plum is not
closely related to plums that we
purchase in the grocery store or
grow in home orchards. Natal
plum is native to the coastal region
of Natal, South Africa.
While natal plum may produce
flowers and fruits throughout the
year, the peak period for flowering
and fruiting is May through September.
Flowering was a bit delayed
this spring and is likely due
to the unusually cold temperatures
of winter. The edible fruit is an attractive,
plum-shaped red berry
about 2 inches long which tastes
like sweet cranberries.
Natal plum is an outstanding
plant for areas near the shoreline.
It’s little wonder that Natal plum is
often a major component of commercial
landscapes along the Seawall
including hotel and restaurant
landscapes.
Leaves are densely spaced, attractive
dark-green and glossy. It’s
a low maintenance shrub once it
becomes well-established in the
landscape.
Natal plum has a drawback—its
branches are armed with stout and
double-tipped thorns that grow
1-to-2 inches long.

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