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Publication #ENH333

Coccoloba diversifolia: Pigeon Plum1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

This upright, densely-foliated, rounded evergreen tree is usually seen at 15 to 25 feet and a spread of 20 to 35 feet, though it can grow larger. Young trees appear pyramidal until the multiple trunks begin spreading. This can form a rounded vase on older specimens. It is a wonderful small to medium-sized tree for subtropical landscapes, typically sporting a multiple trunk. Trunks often grow almost parallel to each other, and embedded or included bark forms regularly, but this does not appear to compromise the wood strength of pigeon plum. The 4-inch-long, shiny, dark green, leathery leaves drop uniformly in March but quickly emerge as bright red new growth. The small, whitish-green flowers are abundantly produced on 2- to 3-inch-long racemes in early summer, followed by 1/3-inch-long, purple, pear-shaped fruit. The single-seeded, somewhat edible fruits ripen in late fall and winter and are very attractive to birds.

Figure 1. 

Middle-aged Coccoloba diversifolia: pigeon plum.


Credit:

Ed Gilman


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Coccoloba diversifolia
Pronunciation: koe-koe-LOE-buh dye-ver-sih-FOLE-ee-uh
Common name(s): Pigeon plum
Family: Polygonaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: hedge; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; reclamation; street without sidewalk; deck or patio; specimen; shade; tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median; container or planter
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 15 to 25 feet
Spread: 20 to 30 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: upright/erect, round, vase
Crown density: dense
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: oblong, ovate
Leaf venation: pinnate, brachidodrome
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches, 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: white/cream/gray
Flower characteristics: showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval, round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit covering: fleshy
Fruit color: purple
Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches don't droop; very showy; typically multi-trunked; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: medium, thick
Wood specific gravity: unknown

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun, or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; alkaline; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: yes
Outstanding tree: yes
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

Although pigeon plum makes a wonderful shade tree, the fallen fruit may create a litter problem on patios and sidewalks, and along streets. But the 2-month inconvenience of messy fruit may be a small price to pay for the wonderful effect this striking tree creates along streets or in a residential yard. Lower branches will need to be removed over time for vehicle clearance along streets, but there is a definite place for the tree along boulevards where cars will not park. The 1- to 2-foot wide, straight, upright trunks have grayish-brown bark that falls off in plates to reveal dark purplish bark beneath, helping to make pigeon plum a wonderful specimen tree. It looks striking as a specimen lighted at night from beneath the canopy. Trees trained to a single trunk in the nursery can be very useful for planting along streets where vehicle clearance is needed.

Fast-growing in full sun or partial shade, pigeon plum does best on moist, well-drained soils. It has good salt tolerance. Be sure to slice and otherwise drastically disturb and pull apart the root ball on pot bound, container-grown trees. Pot-bound trees have a reputation for rooting out poorly into landscape soil.

Propagation is by seed.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern. Chewing insects will occasionally riddle the new growth, but control is not usually required.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH333, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed May 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.