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What is a Sea Grape?

M.R. Anglin
M.R. Anglin

A sea grape is a type of tree that is found in the tropics. The tree can grow in sandy soil on the beach and produces fruit that clusters much like grapes. Sea grapes can be found in tropical and subtropical areas, such as in Florida and the Caribbean. The tree is wind and salt tolerant and is often used in landscaping in some areas. The fruit is edible and can be eaten by humans, as well as various animals.

The sea grape can be trained to grow in different ways. Depending on how it is trained, it can grow into a 25 to 30 foot (about 7.6 to 9.2 meter) tree or into a shrub. Left alone, the plant usually produces many trunks, but it can be pruned to form a single one. Once trained for about 10 years, the plant needs minimum care. A person only needs to water it and prune it to make sure that it maintains the desired shape.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

Many times, the sea grape grows on or near the beach in sandy soil. Though its tolerance of salt makes it an ideal beach plant, the sea grape may grow better in soil that is fertile and drains well. It can also grow in compacted soil that doesn’t drain well, however. It likes to grow in full sun and should not be exposed to freezing temperatures for long periods of time. Older plants may survive temperatures of 22 Fahrenheit (about -5.5 Celsius), but younger plants may die at such temperatures.

One of the main characteristics of the sea grape is its broad leaves — usually eight to 12 inches (about 20.3 to 30.5 centimeters) long. When the leaves are immature, they are red in color. When the leaves mature, they change color until they are green with red veins. The flowers of the sea grape are usually ivory or white. They grow in racemes, or clusters on short stalks.

The fruit of the sea grape also grow in racemes. The fruits can be white or purple and may resemble a cluster of grapes. It is only the female plant that produces the fruit, but the male should be present in order for the female to produce. The fruit is edible and can be used in making jams. They can also be eaten by animals such as squirrels and birds straight off the tree.

Sea grapes can be propagated using their seeds. Using this method is natural but gives a person no control over the gender or other characteristics of the tree. Aside from waiting for a seed to germinate, a person may also get a new sea grape plant by taking a cutting. Certain areas of the plant can be cut off and planted where they may start to grow leaves and roots. This method can be used to obtain a better and more predictable plant than may be obtained through seedlings.

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