27 September 2023

The unique, hardy and beautiful sea grape


One of the first misconceptions I had to shed was the dream of rampant colorful blossoms at False Bluff...bougainvilla, ylang ylang, myriad hibiscus, lantana, muhly grass.  All these and more are touted, even by universities, as plants that will - if not thrive - at least do well in salty conditions.  There are long lists of plants that are 'salt tolerant' 

And of course there is salt in the water of the Caribbean but also in the air.  Salt that constantly blows over the plants along the sea...blows in on heavy winds or blows in on soft breezes.  Over the years much of the salt that comes with the air off the sea ends up in the soil and just stays.  It can last for years in soil or as in our case last forever...or as long as the wind blows. i suppose that places where the salt leaches out of the soil are places where the salt was the result of an accidental dump or spill and not places that live at the edge a body of salt water.

If you're a gardener you know how quick salt can kill a plant.  If you're not a gardener you can google about it.  So when we began this project I, a gardener, planted and planted...and almost without fail the plants died.  Turns out my salt tolerant plants were not very tolerant at all...perhaps a sign of the times.

But of course there are exceptions and we continue to use these to good effect.  Some we've planted, some were already there, and some are a combination.  The zoysia wasn't there but we had seen how well it does on an island actually in the Caribbean...whereas we just front on it; And what we call the swamp lily which will migrate right to the edge of the sea.

One that was there is known as sea grape, a structurally splendid plant making up for its totally insignificant flower.  It can be grown as either a shrub or a tree depending on how it's pruned.  We don't prune them but instead let the weather do it for us. 

And although its flower is insignificant it really does produce grapes that are pretty tasty: