Sea Grape is a landscape shrub or small tree originating in Central America and the Caribbean and 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 rounded crown.
Leaves large with a rounded saucer-shape, dull green, prominently veined and with a firm leathery fell to them. Most change colour in the dry season, becoming bright red before falling to the ground. They are replaced by new leaves in the rainy season emerging bronze-red, gradually becoming green with age.
Flowers small, white, fragrant and with female and male flowers on separate plants. They bloom mainly in spring, but also occasionally throughout the rest of the year. The flowers on female plants are followed by small, round, green fruit held in tight clusters. Ripening to deep purple, they somewhat resemble a long bunches of grapes.
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.
Grows naturally in sub-humid to humid tropical climates, generally in areas with annual lows of 19 to 25 °C, annual highs of 25 to 35 °C, annual rainfall of 600 to 3300 mm and a dry season of 8 months or less.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This website is provided for general information only. Iplantz makes no statements, representations or warranties as to the accuracy or completeness of the content of this website and does not accept any liability to you or any other person for the information which is provided or referred to on this website.
In particular, Iplantz does not represent or warrant that any dataset or the data it contains is accurate, authentic or complete, or suitable for your needs. Changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact the accuracy of datasets and their contents.
To the maximum extent permitted by law, Iplantz accepts no liability whatsoever to any person arising from or connected with the use of or reliance on any information or advice provided on this website or incorporated into it by reference, including any dataset or data it contains. No responsibility is taken for any information or services that may appear on any linked websites.