SCIENTIFIC NAME: Carissa carandas
FAMILY: Apocynaceae

The karanda, Carissa carandas, is a sprawling semi-vine shrub native to India which has become popular in some south Florida tropical fruit collections. Leaves are from one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half inches long, very dark green, shiny and opposite and they have large spines like many other Carissas. If the leaves or stems are injured, the white milky sap is seen, which is characteristic of this group of plants.

Although Karanda can be kept clipped into a shrub, it really prefers to act much like a vine similar to bougainvillea, and will climb to the tops of rather tall trees. Specimens have been observed by this author up to forty feet in height in large fruit trees such as mangos and avocados.

Small fragrant three-quarter-inch white flowers are produced from early spring through late fall and the clusters of small purplish-to-black fruit ripen from May through October. Fruit size is variable, but most fruits are about three-quarters of an inch in diameter with a few seeds. Fruits usually occur in clusters somewhat resembling large purple grapes. Fruit quality is excellent in this author's opinion, somewhat resembling that of a blueberry in flavor. Fruits can be eaten fresh or used for jellies or jam.

Plants are quite cold hardy, and can take temperatures down to about 25° F. before serious damage occurs. Although best grown in full sun, karanda is tolerant of light shade and will produce adequate fruit.

Salt tolerance of Carissa carandas is also reported to be excellent and most other varieties of carissas also enjoy high salt tolerance. Propagation is usually done from cuttings from superior varieties, but they also can be propagated from seed. Seedling-produced plants, though, are usually quite variable as to the size of the fruit and quality. Air layering can also be done on large-diameter stems where practical.

There are no serious pests of Carissa carandas except occasionally birds might help harvest fruit. This is an excellent 'people-stopper' plant for security because of its large thorns. It can be used along a fence or similar area to provide privacy as well as delicious fruit. Although a little bit more difficult to locate in the nursery industry, it is worth pursuing if you really enjoy this plant.

For best growth, fertilize carissas three to four times a year with a general-purpose fertilizer containing all micronutrients. Once established, plants need very little irrigation, and in fact, do poorly in wet soils or sites that are frequently flooded during heavy rainfall.

Gene Joyner
Tropical Fruit News. Vol. 30 No. 5, May 1996

DATE: July 1996

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *