Monday, September 1, 2008

Gardening: Seagrape

When we first bought our house, we had a huge ficus tree outside our dining room window. It was beautiful and shaded the window nicely, but had huge roots that were growing towards the foundation of our house, so had to go. We were left with the dilemma of what to put in it's place. We went back and forth, J wanting one thing, me wanting another. After about 6 months of looking around different garden centers, we agreed on the Seagrape.

The Seagrape (Coccoloba uvifera) is a sprawling bush or small tree that is found near beaches throughout tropical America and the Caribbean, including southern Florida and Bermuda. It reaches a maximum height of 8 metres, but most specimens are little more than 2 metres tall. It has large, round, leathery leaves (up to 25 cm in diameter) with a primary vein that has a red color extending from the base, and the entire leaf turns red as it ages. The bark is smooth and yellowish. In late summer it bears purplish fruit, about 2 cm in diameter, in large grape-like clusters. The fruit also contains a pit.

The tree is unable to survive frost. However, it is moderately tolerant of shade, and highly tolerant of salt, so it is often planted to stabilise beach edges; it is also planted as an ornamental shrub. The fruit can be used for jam or the fruit can be eaten right off the tree.
We now have three in various places around our house. They are low maintenance and absolutely gorgeous. While we haven't had any fruit yet, I'm anxiously awaiting the opportunity to make my first jam!

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