This Carissa haematocarpa shrub growing in the Karoo National Park near Beaufort West shows how hard life can be in this arid setting. Where life is easier this may be a tree. The photograph was taken late in October when the hot season is not yet at its peak. Signs of thirst are clear to see in the dried spines and the general yellowish colour. Still, the plant manages to produce a fair flourish of flower clusters, showing resilience.
One should not underestimate the capacity of established local plant communities. Bigger Karoo shrubs like this one are often bolstered by long taproots that may reach deep seated moisture supplies, well hidden from the sun.
This species resembles C. bispinosa subsp. bispinosa, but can be distinguished by the twice-forked spines and small flowers that are in evidence here. C. bispinosa also has red fruit while C. haematocarpa has smaller black ones. Some consider the two species to be the same, maybe resolving the differences via subspecies (Coates Palgrave, 2002).