If you live along the coast and are looking for a plant that is wind and salt tolerant, look no farther than the sea grape plant. What are sea grapes? Read on to find out and get some additional seaside grape information that can be useful when deciding if this is a suitable plant for your landscape?
What are Sea Grapes?
A tropical tree found in the tropics, sea grape plant (Coccoloba uvifera) is often used in ocean-side landscaping. Growing sea grapes can be found in sandy soil right on the beach and it produces clusters of fruit that resemble grapes.
The tree tends to branch off into multiple trunks, but can be trained (pruned) to form a single one and its size can be maintained to that of a shrub. It can grow up to 25-30 feet high when left unchecked. After about 10 years of training the tree, sea grape care is minimal and needs only to be watered and occasionally pruned to maintain the desired shape.
They are most often utilized to create a windbreak or hedge, although they make attractive specimen plants as well. They do well in urban environments and have even been used as street trees along boulevards and freeways.
Sea grape has very broad leaves of between 8-12 inches. When immature, the foliage is red in color and, as they age, change color until they are green laced with red veins. The plant blooms with flowers of ivory to white, which grow in clusters on short stalks. The resulting fruit also grows in clusters and can be white or purple. Only female plants produce fruit but, of course, the male plant must be nearby for her to produce.
Since the fruit looks so much like grapes, one wonders are sea grapes edible? Yes, animals enjoy sea grapes and humans can eat them as well, and they are used to make jam.
Keep in mind that the tree does create a bit of a mess from dropping fruit and debris, so select a planting site accordingly. The pollen from the blossoms has been known to cause significant allergy symptoms in sufferers as well.
Sea Grape Care
While the sea grape plant is tolerant of salt, making it an ideal coastal plant, it will truly thrive in fertile, well-drained soil. The plant should be situated in a full sun exposure. Older plants are able to survive temperatures of 22 degrees F./-5 degrees C., but young plants are likely to die.
Sea grapes are propagated naturally via their seed, but this method does not give you any control over the gender or other characteristics of the tree. Taking a cutting from an existing plant may obtain a more predictable result than that obtained from seeded seedlings.
Additional sea grape care cautions to water the plant routinely until well-established. Prune sea grape regularly to maintain its shape and remove dead branches.