fruit, foliage

Natural populations

The main distribution of Carissa ovata is along the east coast from Cairns to north-eastern NSW; with a disjunct population in the Kimberley region, Western Australia [42, 44, 67]. It occurs in microphyll vine thickets and vine forest in a variety of soils derived from volcanic parent material [42]. A highly variable species [42, 43], however, this variation is considered continuous with no clear distinctions [67]. Although not formally recognised the following observations on variation in leaf shape and plant form has been noted (P.I. Forster, Queensland Herbarium, pers. comm.):

The National Herbarium of New South Wales recognises two forms:

The Australian Plant Census denotes that C. ovata is now regarded as Carissa spinarum, although this species is still recognised as C. ovata in NSW, QLD and WA [43, 44, 45].

Flowering and seeds

Plants flower and fruit throughout the year [42]. For best germination results, sow fresh [1], with germination occurring after 3 months [109].

Cultivation and uses

The plant provides a very good low shelter and as such is of high wildlife value [1]. The fruit is reputed to be edible [42, 67].

Key descriptors:
Climate parameters
Mean annual rainfall: 450-1700 mm
Rainfall distribution pattern: summer
Mean annual temperature: 14-27 °C
Mean max. temperature of the hottest month: 28-37 °C
Mean min. temperature of the coldest month: 1-17 °C
Frosts (approx. no. per year): greater than 20
Frost intensity: light to moderate (0 to -5°C)
Altitude: 0-750 metres
Tolerance of climate extremes
Drought: known to be moderately drought tolerant
Frost: tolerates frosts in the 0° to -5°C range
Wind: tolerates salt-laden coastal winds
Soil factors
Texture: clay loam, duplex texture contrast soils, loam, sandy loam, sandy clay loam or sand
Soil pH reaction: acidic (less than 6.5)
Soil depth: skeletal to shallow (less than 30 cm) or 2. moderate to deep (30-100 cm or greater)
Drainage:  well-drained
Salinity: slightly to moderately saline
Biological traits under cultivation
Habit: evergreen shrub less than 2 m tall
Shade tolerance: tolerates partial shade


[1] Carr D (1997) Plants in Your Pants: a pocket guide for the identification and use of the common plants of the northwest slopes. Greening Australia NSW, Armidale.

[42] Flora of Australia (1982 to 2007) Volumes 2 to 47, CSIRO Publishing and the Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra.

[43] National Herbarium of New South Wales (2008) PlantNET - Flora of New South Wales. (Online resource) (Accessed: February 2008).

[44] Western Australian Herbarium, Department of Environment and Conservation (2008) FloraBase: the Western Australian flora. (Online resource) (Accessed: February 2008).

[45] Bostock P, Holland A (2007) Census of the Queensland Flora 2007. Queensland Herbarium, Brisbane.

[67] Forster PI (1999) A taxonomic revision of Carissa (Apocynaceae) in Australia. Australian Systematic Botany 5, 581-91.

[109] Brisbane Rainforest Action & Information Network (2007) Brisbane Rainforest Plants database. (Online resource) (Accessed: February 2008).

Internet links

PlantNet NSW Flora Online – species description & distribution: