Coccoloba uvifera

Common name: Sea grape

Other common names: Horsewood, Hopwood, Jamaica kino, Seaside grape

Names in non-English languages: Spanish

Description

Sea Grape is a landscape shrub or small tree originating in Central America and the Caribbean and is commonly associated with coastal areas. 

Growing near the seashore, it is typically 2 to 4 m (7 to 13 ft) tall, sometimes with multiple trunks that divide at the base in a v-shape, forming a wide-spreading crown. Inland and away from the coastline it tends to be taller, reaching heights of up to 15 m (50 ft) and is more tree-like, usually with a single trunk and a rounded crown. 

The leaves are large, round saucer-shaped, dull green and with a firm leathery texture. Most change colour in the dry season, becoming bright red before falling to the ground to be replaced by new leaves in the rainy season. The new leaves emerge with a bronze hue, gradually changing to green as they age. 

The flowers are small, white, fragrant and bloom mainly in spring but also intermittently throughout the rest of the year, with female and male flowers on different plants. The flowers on female plants are followed by small, round, green fruit held in tight clusters. Ripening to deep purple, they vaguely resemble a long bunches of grapes.

Use

Shrubs growing on or near beaches provide much-needed shade to beachgoers seeking relief from the hot afternoon sun. It is a good candidate for planting to minimise beach erosion, being one of the first woody plants to naturally colonise sandy beaches.

The fruit have a large seed and thin pulp that although astringent has a sweetish, grape-like flavour when fully ripe. They are picked and eaten fresh, mainly by beachgoers, but are considered a minor fruit. However, they make an excellent jam or jelly to spread on bread and pastries. They also sustain wild bird-life in its native range, including indigenous pigeon species.

The flowers produce good quantities of nectar for honey, which is pale in colour but cloudy and with a high moisture content.

The wood is fine-grained, heavy and hard, but susceptible to termite infestation. The roundwood is used mostly for firewood and for making charcoal. The firewood is reported to be low-smoking and the charcoal has a history of use by blacksmiths in Mexico. A tanning agent extracted from the bark was once exported from the Americas to Europe.

The large, round, leathery leaves are used as backing greenery by florists, particularly in large arrangements.

Climate

Grows naturally in sub-humid to humid tropical climates, generally in areas with annual lows of 19 to 25 °C, annual highs of 27 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 600 to 3300 mm and a dry season of 8 months or less.

Growing

New plants can be started from seed, cuttings or using air layering (circumposing) techniques. Male plants do not bear fruit, so vegetative propagation is preferred to give control over the ratio of male to female plants. Plants grown from cuttings are reported to bear fruit earlier and grow faster than plants propagated from seed.

It performs best on free-draining sand or loam soil of a neutral to alkaline nature, generally with a pH of 7.0 to 8.0. It has good tolerance to drought, salt, limestone, tidal flooding and windy conditions.

Problem features

Birds and other animals eat the fruit and carry the seed to new areas. It is listed as a weed in more than one reference publication, but there does not appear to be any record of it anywhere as a serious or high weed risk species. It is assessed as a low weed risk species for Hawaii by the Hawaii Pacific Weed Risk Assessment project (HPWRA).

The leaves create litter in the dry season, falling to the ground after changing colour.

Where it will grow


References

Books

  • Adams, C. D. 1972, Flowering plants of Jamaica, University of the West Indies, Mona, Greater Kingston

  • Barwick, M., et al. 2004, Tropical & subtropical trees : a worldwide encyclopaedic guide, Thames and Hudson, London

  • Bradbear, N. 2009, Bees and their role in forest livelihoods : a guide to the services provided by bees and the sustainable harvesting, processing and marketing of their products, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome

  • Crane, E., Walker, P. & Day, R. 1984, Directory of important world honey sources, International Bee Research Association, London

  • Fawcett, W. 1891, Economic plants, An index to economic products of the vegetable kingdom in Jamaica, Jamaica Government Printing Establishment, Kingston

  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 1982, Fruit-bearing forest trees : technical notes, FAO, Rome

  • Francis, J. K. 1998, Tree species for planting in forest, rural, and urban areas of Puerto Rico, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Piedras, Puerto Rico

  • Francis, J. K. 2004, Wildland shrubs of the United States and its territories: Thamnic descriptions, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, Río Piedras, San Juan, Puerto Rico & Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins, Colorodo

  • Gilman, E. F. 1997, Trees for urban and suburban landscapes, Delmar Publishers, Albany, New York

  • Krohn-Ching, Val 1980, Hawaii dye plants and dye recipes, University Press of Hawaii, Honolulu

  • Mackey, B. & Brandies, M. M., 2001, A cutting garden for Florida : grow marvelous flowers for bouquets in your Florida home landscape, 3rd edition, revised and expanded, B.B. Mackey Books, Wayne, Pennsylvania

  • Martin, F. M., et al. 1987, Perennial edible fruits of the tropics : an inventory, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Washington, D.C.

  • National Research Council (Board on Science and Technology for International Development) 1983, Firewood crops : shrub and tree species for energy production (Volume 2), The National Academies Press, Washington D. C.

  • Randall, R. P. 2002, A global compendium of weeds, R.G. and F.J. Richardson Press, Melbourne

  • Randall, R. P. 2007, The introduced flora of Australia and its weed status, Cooperative Research Centre for Australian Weed Management, Glen Osmond, South Australia

  • Schubert, T. H. 1979, Trees for urban use in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station, New Orleans

  • Vázquez, Y.C. 1999. Potentially valuable Mexican trees for ecological restoration and reforestation, Institute of Ecology, Database SNIB-REMIB-CONABIO, Project J084, Mexico

  • Vozzo, J. A 2002, Tropical tree seed manual, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service, Washington D.C.

Articles, Journals, Reports and Working Papers

  • Dagar, J. C. & Singh, G. 2007, Biodiversity of Saline and Waterlogged Environments: Documentation, Utilization and Management, NBA Scientific Bulletin, (9), 78.

  • Morton, J.F. 1964, Honeybee Plants of South Florida, Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society, Vol 77:415-436.

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