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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Carissa offers jasmine and gardenia fragrance

By Staff | Jan 6, 2016

Plant Subject: Carissa (Carissa macrocarpa)

First impression: Shiny, deep dark green leaves are an eye catching backdrop to the twinkling star like white flowers. Wow, what an intense fragrance of jasmine mixed with gardenia. Look out; the closely spaced leaves are hiding small spines on the branches. Plum sized fruit in varying shades of ripeness are being protected by the thorns. But ahhh, the fragrance is the worth the sniff! Take a deep breath and let your memories take over at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Carissa is considered a great addition to any area in your garden. It adds a dark green compact shape with lots of grit against strong winds and salt spray. The dense foliage makes it a good screen, and its thorns make it a stay away barrier as well.

Patience is the key because of its slow growth, it’s a great plant to shape, as your garden grows with time. Considered a medium sized shrub, our tallest one is about 12 feet tall. Now a day, more cultivars are available to us in dwarf sizes, horizontal ground covers, thorn less, and spiral flowers.

The fragrant tiny flowers are cameo white and packed an olfactory wallop of fragrance, which intensifies at night. Take a flower and rub it on your wrists-ahhhhh!

The flowers are a super pollinator attractor; everyone takes advantage of the nectar. Remember I mentioned fruits? Natal plums start out green then turn a reddish crimson hue when ripe. To me, they are very tart and remind me of sour cranberries, but can be transformed into unique pies, jams, jellies, and sauces.

One drawback of our star is that the tasty plum is the only plant part that is not poisonous. Like many plants of the Carissa species, the white milky sap of the leaves can make you ill. Wear gloves, wash your hands, and never ingest this ooze, it has a highly-toxic quality.

You will appreciate this plants easy nature and lack of pests and disease. The mature plants occasionally will get a branch area that turns completely black and necrotic, just prune away. Made for our tropical climate, easy care, drought tolerant, and can take full sun to partial shade. It is a nonnative, noninvasive species, who hails from the South of Africa, where it is grown as an edible crop.

Pros:

Bloomer and fruiter at the same time

Does well in sandy soil

Pollinator attractor

Salt tolerance

Save on expensive perfumes, rub all over your body

Noninvasive

Add a new jelly to your repertoire

Intoxicating fragrance.

Cons:

Be careful with sap

Slow grower

Nonnative

Spiny-ouch!

Neighbors may be stealing fruit when you’re not looking.

Conclusion: Blooms of cameo white starry-starry flowers, which fill the night with a twinkling fragrance. Follow your nose to our garden in paradise.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!