The Sea Grape
Also known as the bay grape, the sea grape is not actually a grape at all, but a flowering plant of the buckwheat family. It has large, broad leaves that are light green to red in color. It is found mainly around the coastal regions of tropical America and some surrounding islands. In south Florida they litter they landscape, often used as a windbreak along the coastline. They are very productive trees that tend to grow into thick forests, blanketed with their fallen leaves. Hermit crabs love the environment that sea grapes create, and can often be found crawling among the leaves.
Being a tropical plant, the sea grape cannot survive frost. The leaves turn reddish and wither in temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius. It is, however, highly adapted to survive in the poor sandy soil of the beaches. Highly tolerant to both wind and salt, it's one of the few fruiting plants capable of surviving in such conditions. The average height of a sea grape tree is 10 feet, but they can grow up to 50 feet in ideal conditions. The wood of the older trees is very beautiful and is coveted by cabinet makers.
Grape-like bunches of fruit abundantly hang over this hardy plant in late summer, and they ripen from September through October. New fruit are green, while ripe fruit have a purplish color. The skin has a velvety texture and the pits are large and take up most of the mass of the fruit. When planting, the seeds must be planted right away. Unlike other plants, the seeds cannot be stored for future planting.
When fruit have turned purple, harvest them by placing a bucket or basket under a cluster and gently running your hand over it. Be sure to do this gently so you will only dislodge the ripe fruit and leave the green ones to ripen.
- Fruit can be eaten fresh picked from the tree.
- Fruit can be strained and boiled to make juice and puree.
- Fruit can be used to make wine.
- Fruit are high in pectin, making them ideal for jellies.
- Wood of older trees are used to make cabinets
- Wood also makes good fire wood.
- Beautiful , shady ornamental plant