The delicious fruits of this “bush tucker” plant are ripening now, and I am impressed by their size, on the plant in the Toowoomba Community Organic Garden’s bushfoods section (left). These plants have had no watering, but despite this the fruits are impressively large. They are said to be rich in vitamin C, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and were much valued by our early white settlers, who called it “currant bush”.
I don’t know where their plant originated, but think it likely that it’s not of local native provenance, as the ones we see around the district have smaller fruits, of which they produce plenty with no supplementary watering. This one grows in Franke Scrub at Highfields.
Plants of local stock would probably have the advantage of being hardier to drought, frost, and sun. We usually see kunkerberry described as a frost-tender understorey plant of dry rainforests, but these plants at Irongate are growing naturally in a very exposed location, and are clearly thriving.
“Carissa” is Italian for “little darling”, and a this is indeed a potentially very pretty plant, with its fresh, shiny-green leaves and beautifully-perfumed, starry white summer flowers.
The spines are a consideration, though. They are quite wicked, making kunkerberry a suitable plant for a security hedge, or a good place for little birds to build their nests, safe from marauding cats. The birds love the fruits, too - so much so that there may be no fruits left for human consumption. This is a top plant for a wild-life-friendly garden.