x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Plant library: Sea grape

Distinctive fan-shaped leaves, fragrant flowers and clusters of attractive fruit make this plant a popular landscaping option.

Sea grape has distinctive fan-shaped leaves. Courtesy iStock
Sea grape has distinctive fan-shaped leaves. Courtesy iStock

Coccoloba uvifera An extremely versatile and popular landscape shrub and tree throughout the tropics, Coccoloba can be used as a hedge, windbreak or even as a shady street tree. Unsurprisingly, given that its native habitats are the coastal hammocks, coastal scrub, coastal grasslands and beach strands of the tropical Americas, Coccoloba is extremely tolerant of salt, heat and drought. This makes it perfect for the UAE, where landscape designers use it as an informal hedge to give a sense of tropical lushness to resort landscapes.

With its distinctive, jade-coloured, fan-shaped leaves, fragrant flowers and clusters of attractive fruit, the plant deserves to be used more extensively but perhaps not as widely as at Qasr al Sarab spa resort near Liwa, where young specimens have been planted as trees. Perhaps the designers there used seaside plants on the edge of the Empty Quarter as some kind of joke, but to this curmudgeon the irony seems more pathetic than amusing.

Though not as readily available as some plants in the UAE, Coccoloba can be found at larger nurseries. Failing that, the plant can be propagated by cuttings, layering or by seed. Seeds must be used immediately because they will not germinate after being kept in storage.