Tropical Style

Sea Grape Bushes

Sea grapes (Coccoloba uvifera) are sprawling evergreen shrubs that grow on sandy beaches in Mediterranean and tropical climates. Thriving from the heat and heat of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10b and 11, sea grape shrubs spread widely on salty ocean beaches but they also grow as trees in yards. You can eat the fruits raw or utilize them to make wines, jams and preserves. The plants have been drought-tolerant and prefer partial shade to full sunlight.


Sea grape trees have light brown, thin bark and thick, round leaves that spread 8 to 10 inches apartfrom Young foliage is reddish-bronze using a leathery texture. Leaves, with reddish or Scrub veins, turn dark green at maturity and rust-like before falling. Bushes and trees produce little white, scented flowers in spring or early summer. Light green fruit clusters hang from young leaves but the strawberries become reddish-purple when ripe. Each grape is generally less than 1 inch wide.


It is simple to grow sea grapes from seed, but female trees require nearby male pollinators to produce fruit. Fruit production might not occur on its own until trees are 4 to 8 years old, notes the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. However, seedlings grafted by palm on rootstocks or cuttings may hasten the process — enabling for grape crops within the tree’s second season. Although exposure to prolonged temperatures under 32 degrees Fahrenheit may damage young trees, older ones may manage short periods at 22 F. Sea grape bushes and trees prefer sandy, well-draining dirt and are tolerant of ocean air. Landscape trees may grow to 35 feet tall.


Sea grapes are somewhat pear-shaped. They’ve sweet and tangy pulp — each one surrounds one seed. The skins are reddish to dark purple when the fruits are ripe. Sea grapes typically mature in summertime but ripening is sometimes delayed until fall if spring flowers arrive late. Fruits ripen unevenly in separate racemes. Large trees may produce several thousand individual strawberries each season.


The trees should be well-spaced to allow room for spreading heels and roots. Sea grape trees are drought-tolerant when established, but regular watering will help them flower and fruit. Fertilizing shrubs and trees using a 6-6-6 or 8-8-8 fertilizer two or three times annually — less frequently if plants have been established in more fertile soil — will help them grow. Sea grape trees should be pruned sparingly to remove dead branches and damaged timber but more frequently if they’re implanted in a hedgerow. Insect infestation and diseases are minimum issues for sea strawberries, but leaves do attract fungi. Birds and other wildlife enjoy the tree’s ripe fruit.

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