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 carissa 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 mangoes and avocadoes.
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
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 karanda is also reported to be excellent
and most other varieties of carrisas 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 karanda 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.
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