What is a Pigeon Plum?

Steve R.

A pigeon plum (Coccoloba diversifolia), often referred to as doveplum or seagrape, is an evergreen tree native to central and southern Florida, as well as the Caribbean. The tree, which is part of the buckwheat family, is capable of reaching heights of 80 feet (about 24.4 meters), but typically ranges between 30 and 40 feet (about 9 to 12 meters) in height. Pigeon plums contain tiny, light green flowers, along with edible, purple, pear-shaped fruit.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Flowers of the tree bloom in the spring, while the fruit ripens in the late summer or early fall. The pigeon plum's fruit is consumed by various wildlife species. The tree gets its name because pigeons are common consumers of the dark-colored fruit. Other creatures that feed on the fruit and seeds include raccoons, tiny rodents, robins, and woodpeckers. The round, fleshy fruit that is half an inch long (about 1.3 centimeters) is also safe for human consumption.

The pigeon plum contains green, oblong, and leathery leaves that typically range between three and four inches (about 7.6 to 10.2 centimeters) in length. The tree leaves are capable of growing up to eight inches (about 20 centimeters). The front sides of the leaves are bright green in color while the underside is typically much paler looking. When the pigeon plum is young, its leaves are much larger to amass as much sunlight as possible. Leaves reduce in size as the tree grows taller and amasses more sunlight.

The thin bark of the pigeon plum is dark red or brown in color. Bark is also smooth in texture, but may develop a more scaly texture as the tree ages. It is not uncommon for the bark to fall off, revealing a deep purple color underneath. Wood of the tree is often brittle, but is sometimes used to make furniture or cabinets.

The pigeon plum grows best in moist, well-drained soil in areas that receive full sun or partial shade. The tree makes a good shade tree, with its dense branches and is often used in landscaping, or as planted in median strips along highways. Pigeon plums usually contain multiple trunks that grow parallel to one another. The trees are unaffected by high winds, droughts, and salty conditions, so they can grow in sandy, rocky areas along tidewater areas. The species is often used as a hurricane barrier in coastal areas.

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