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Publication #ENH334

Coccoloba uvifera: Seagrape1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean2

Introduction

Reaching a height of 35 to 50 feet, seagrape can take on a variety of shapes, depending upon its location but typically forms a multi-stemmed vase shape if left unpruned. The large, almost circular, broad, leathery, evergreen leaves of seagrape have distinctive red veins. The leaves frequently turn completely red before they fall in winter. The new young foliage is a beautiful bronze color which is set off nicely against the dark green, shiny leaves. The inconspicuous ivory flowers are produced on foot-long racemes and are followed by dense clusters of 3/4-inch diameter green grapes on female trees only, ripening to a luscious deep purple in late summer. Males do not produce fruit. The grapes are often used to make a delicious jelly and are also popular with birds and squirrels.

Figure 1. 

Full Form—Coccoloba uvifera: Seagrape


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General Information

Scientific name: Coccoloba uvifera

Pronunciation: koe-koe-LOE-buh yoo-VIFF-er-uh

Common name(s): Seagrape

Family: Polygonaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 10A through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: native to Florida, Central America, northwest portion of South America and the Caribbean

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: native

Uses: street without sidewalk; screen; specimen; shade; hedge; reclamation; fruit; tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median; bonsai.

Figure 2. 

Range


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Description

Height: 35 to 50 feet

Spread: 20 to 30 feet

Crown uniformity: symmetrical

Crown shape: vase

Crown density: moderate

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: orbiculate

Leaf venation: reticulate, brachidodrome, pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen

Leaf blade length: 8 to 12 inches

Leaf color: green with red veins

Fall color: red

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Young Leaf—Coccoloba uvifera: Seagrape


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Figure 4. 

Mature Leaf—Coccoloba uvifera: Seagrape


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Flower

Flower color: cream-colored

Flower characteristics: not showy; emerge in clusters on racemes

Flowering: primarily spring to early summer, but may also occur year-round

Figure 5. 

Flower—Coccoloba uvifera: Seagrape


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Fruit

Fruit shape: elliptical

Fruit length: ¾ inch

Fruit covering: fleshy achene

Fruit color: green to reddish purple

Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Fruiting: emerges in early summer and ripens by early fall

Figure 6. 

Fruit—Coccoloba uvifera: Seagrape


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Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches droop; showy; typically multi-trunked; no thorns

Bark: smooth and mottled with whitish, gray, and brown, thin-peeling plates

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: susceptible to breakage

Current year twig color: brown

Current year twig thickness: thick

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 7. 

Bark—Coccoloba uvifera: Seagrape


Credit:

Gritta Hasing


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Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun, or partial shade

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained

Drought tolerance: high

Aerosol salt tolerance: high

Other

Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

The contorted, twisting trunk (which can grow to two feet in diameter) and upright branching habit makes seagrape an interesting, picturesque shade tree or specimen planting or, it can be pruned into a dense hedge, screen, or windbreak. Because of its size and coarse texture, seagrape as a clipped hedge is more suited to foundation plantings for large buildings where it will lend a tropical effect. It is also used as a seaside hedge in commercial landscapes, but requires hand pruning, since the large leaves do not lend themselves well to shearing.

Pruning is required two or three times during the first 10 years after planting to train the multiple trunks so they are well-attached to the tree. Be sure branches do not develop embedded bark, since they will be poorly attached to the trunk and could split from the trunk. But the wood and the tree is generally very strong and durable following this developmental and corrective pruning. The tree will then perform well with little care, except for occasional pruning of lower branches to create clearance for vehicles. Some people object to the litter created by the large, slowly-decomposing leaves which fall from the tree during the year.

Requiring full sun and sandy, well-drained soils, seagrape is excellent for seaside locations since it is highly salt- and drought-tolerant. Plants should be well-watered until established and then should only require occasional pruning to control shape.

There is a variegated cultivar available.

Propagation is by seed or cuttings.

Pests

Stems are subject to seagrape borer which can kill branches.

A nipple gall causes raised, red nipples on the upper leaf surface.

Diseases

No diseases are of major concern.

References

Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH334, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; 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.