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What is Coccoloba?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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Coccoloba is a genus of flowering trees and shrubs with about 120 to 150 species, native to parts of South America, Central America, and the Caribbean, with two species, C. diversifolia and C. uvifera extending into the coast of Florida. Most species are evergreen, meaning they maintain their leaves year round regardless of season. Some species have edible fruits. Many Coccoloba trees form symbiotic relationships with fungal species. Coccoloba cereifera has the smallest geographical range within the genus, growing only over a 16 square mile (26 kilometer) area near Serra do CipĆ³ National Park in Brazil.

Coccoloba uvifera, commonly called seagrape or baygrape, is cultivated for its fruit. It is native to coastal beaches in southern Florida and the Caribbean. Seagrape trees are 6.5 to 26 feet (2 to 8 meters) in height, with smooth, yellow bark, and red-veined green leaves that turn entirely red as they age. Their fruit is purple when ripe and grows in grape-like clusters, and each fruit contains a large pit. The fruit can be eaten fresh, but is also used to make jam.

Seagrape trees are cultivated as an ornamental plant, as well as for their fruit. They are resistant to wind and highly tolerant of salt and drought. C. uvifera is pollinated mainly by honeybees.

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Coccoloba diversifolia is another species with edible fruit, which is dark purple when it ripens in the fall. Commonly called doveplum, pigeonplum, pigeon seagrape or tietongue, the tree has a height of 33 to 60 feet (10 to 18 meters). It is resistant to strong winds, drought, and salt; however, it is vulnerable to frost. C. diversifolia is native to coastal regions of Central America, the Caribbean, southern Mexico, southern Florida, and the Bahamas.

Coccoloba pubescens or C. grandifolia, commonly galled grandleaf seagrape or Eve's umbrella, is native to coastal areas of the Caribbean. Trees can reach 80 feet (24 meters) in height. The leaves are green with yellow to red veins, and the flowers are greenish white.

Coccoloba caracasana, commonly called papaturro, is native to Central America and northern South America. It often grows with multiple trunks and features small, green, fragrant flowers. Papaturro also has edible fruit. It is cultivates for its fruit and its wood, which is used as poles and firewood, and for its ornamental properties, including the shade it provides. C. caracasana prefers wet, sandy soil and often grows along rivers.

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