155 Coccoloba uviferaCommon Names: sea grape Family: Polygonaceae (buckwheat Family)
On sand dunes and beaches, seagrape usually grows as a diffuse, sprawling shrub with stout branches and rarely a distinct trunk. However, away from the constant salt and sand spray it can grow into a handsome vase-shaped tree up to 50 ft (15.2 m) tall. The shiny, evergreen leaves are leathery, rounded with heart-shaped bases. The bright green leaves are often veined in red and are about 8 in (20.3 cm) in diameter. The fragrant white flowers are very small and borne on 6-10 in (15.2-25.4 cm) spikes. Female trees bear reddish fruits that are about 3/4 in (1.9 cm) in diameter, pear-shaped and fleshy with a hard "stone." They hang down in grape-like clusters and attract birds and children.
Seagrape is a tropical plant, native to coastal hammocks, coastal scrub, coastal grasslands and beach strands from Argentina north throughout the West Indies and the Florida Keys to Pinellas County on the Gulf Coast and southern Volusia County on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. It does not reach tree stature at the northern limits of its range.
CultureLight: Partial shade to full sun Moisture: Drought tolerant, but water frequently until established. Hardiness: USDA Zones 10 - 11. Propagation: By seed or ground-layering.
Seagrape is used in hedges and as a street tree in coastal cities throughout the tropics. It is one of the most commonly used native plants in South Florida landscaping. Seagrape is highly tolerant of salt spray and salty soils as well as strong sun and wind. It is often planted as a windbreak near beaches and as a hedge or barrier around shopping centers and parking lots. Seagrape makes a fine shade tree in town and provides that "tropical look near the sea."
The fruits are edible raw and are made into "seaside jelly" or wine. In the West Indies, they boil the wood to yield a red dye. Wood from larger trees is prized for cabinet work. A gum from the bark is used for throat ailments, and the roots are used to treat dysentery.
Steve Christman 08/26/99; updated 11/07/00, 1/12/04