Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Carissa macrocarpa 'Boxwood Beauty'

Carissa macrocarpa 'Boxwood Beauty'

The ‘Boxwood Beauty’ is one of the several dwarf cultivars of Carrisa macrocarpa (Natal Plum) that does well in the Phoenix heat. The compact cultivar grows to about two feet high, and can eventually reach a spread of five feet. It’s supposed to be thornless, but that’s not true of those in my garden. The thorns are lighter and smaller than one would find on the regular C. macrocarpa. It may take the heat, but it is frost sensitive, so every year I get some frost damage on my plants, but they quickly come back in spring.

This plant is just full of surprises. The little plum shaped fruits are edible when red and ripe. They contain high amounts of Vitamin C and Potassium. One cup of the fruit contains only 97 calories. The fruit makes nice preserves, or it can be eaten right off the shrub. The rest of the plant is poisonous, and some sources say even the seeds within the fruits are poisonous, but many folks claim they eat the ripe fruits right off the shrub and they have lived to tell the tale.

The C. macrocarpa ‘Boxwood Beauty' has a five-petaled, star shaped white flower that is usually quite fragrant, one of the reasons I chose this groundcover for my garden. However, I can’t detect much aroma from my plants. The flower scent, described as reminiscent of jasmine or orange blossoms, (that’s quite a range of dissimilar odors) can be quite heavy in some varieties.

The dwarf cultivars are popular with Bonsai enthusiasts because of the tightly positioned, scalloped leaves and odd, twisty growth habit of the stems. The year-round flower production is a bonus.

After the hard freeze this past winter I pruned my dead looking plants to ground. I left the stubs in place so that I would know where my irrigation emitters were for new and different plantings in spring. I really thought the Natal Plums were gone, and didn’t plan to replace them. Surprisingly, just a few weeks later they had formed new leaves and began growing vigorously. They are now about the size they were before the freeze.


RUTH said...

Have you ever tried the fruit yourself? I didn't realise that you get frosts.

No Rain said...

Hi Ruth,
Yes, I've tried the fruit. It is juicy and to me, it tastes like sweet cranberries. I was careful not to eat the seeds--I guess I'm chicken!
We do get frost here on occasion, perhaps 10 days in winter. Last winter's hard freeze (18 degrees) is rare. It happens about once in 20 years.

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

What a sweet little plant! Wonder if it would work as a house plant in zone 4.

Good luck figuring out what is going on with the Bush Morning Glory.

No Rain said...

Yes, I believe that any dwarf natal plum will work as a houseplant in your area, as long as it gets adequate light. Since it is used extensively as a bonsai subject, it has to work indoors. If you are interested in fruit, pollination may be a problem. You may have to research hand pollination methods.