Here we are with another poisonous fruit! Well, this time the fruit is actually safe, but the rest of the plant is poisonous. But this fruit isn’t rare. It’s very popular in areas like Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.
The Natal Plum tastes like a slightly sweet cranberry with the texture of a ripe strawberry. Some describe the taste as similar to a slightly unripe cherry. A ripe Natal Plum is plum red and slightly soft to the touch with a coating of latex. It does not need to be peeled before being eaten. Aside from being eaten fresh, it is often used in fruit salads, jams, jellies, and as toppings for cakes, puddings, and ice cream. The fruit is very rich in Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.
The fruit appears in summer and fall or fall and winter depending on the climate. This plant fruits at the same time it blooms. Deep green leaves are offset by the white flowers that bloom for months at a time. These flowers have a smell similar to jasmine, and their aroma is stronger at night.
Natal Plums are suitable for zones 9-11. They are a good choice for coastal areas because they can stand up to salty winds. They grow in mounds two to seven feet high as well as wide. If these plants are being used as a shrub they should be planted 24-36 inches apart. They can be allowed to grow very large and become “invasive,” if that is what you are hoping for. If you are looking for a security hedge, this is ideal. But Natal Plums can also be pruned and kept at any size, perfect for any yard.
They are a popular landscaping plant because they can adapt to many types of soil and lighting conditions. They can also tolerate heat, all the heavy metals, exhaust, and other byproducts of transportation vehicles and are therefore a popular plant for highway landscaping.
When planting the Natal Plum, use caution because of its double spines. These make the plant a good security hedge, but can make planting a bit difficult. Be sure to wear thick gloves when handling them. After pruning, watch out for thorns on the ground that pets or young children could step on. These can be easily swept up. Also, since the plant itself is poisonous, be careful if you have pets near the plants.