Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The seagrape is a popular evergreen tree native to South Florida and the Caribbean. It's not related to grapes, but gets its name from the appearance of purple fruits that are produced in grape-like clusters, and the fruits of seagrapes are edible. Seagrapes can be eaten straight from the tree and have a musky, tart, sweet flavor, but they're best when used in making jelly. While usually only reaching about 30 feet in height, some can grow to 50 feet. Seagrape trees are stout and spreading when protected from wind, but often take on a dwarfed appearance in open beach habitats. They're salt-tolerant and thus do well in seaside habitats. Seagrapes are evergreen with large, heavy, rounded, red-veined leaves that have given them the local name, 'platter leaf'. These leaves are constantly falling -- thus, seagrapes are sometimes viewed as messy in manicured landscapes. On the other hand, seagrapes are tough trees that tolerate pruning to the extent that it can be managed as a hedge. Because seagrape is native and produces an abundance of fruit, it's attractive to native birds and other animals and is a great choice for natural landscaping.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.