Sea grapes are seen throughout Southwest Florida, in both wild and cultivated settings. They’re a distinctive tree, with leathery round leaves on sturdy petioles. The grape-like fruits ripen in the fall to red and purple, eaten by birds and wildlife and used by humans to make jelly or wine.
They’re especially attractive growing wild along the back of the dunes in beach scrub areas. The influences of salt and wind stunt and twist the trunks in fantastic ways.
Emerging leaves are a shiny bronze-red against the varied light and dark greens of the older leaves. The older leaves turn all shades of reds in the winter after they drop, and are wonderful to sketch. Trees along the dunes have a smooth gray-brown bark, some of them silvered – while the tree in my yard has is covered with a range of light to dark browns.
Sea grape seems essentially tropical: I can imagine the larger leaves (some up to 9 inches across!) used as serving plates or temporary hats, clothing, or to thatch a quick shelter. The fruit is described as astringent, sometimes with a sweet-sour taste. Sometimes those are the best thirst-quenchers, diluted and sweetened like lemonade.
I’m trying out my new sketchbook here with Derwent watercolor pencils. I’m not sure it layers as well as I’d like – the leaf on the left is a good example of what not to do – too many layer attempts! I sketched the right leaf with more economy and it turned out better. I think I’m used to a smoother textured paper, but that’s all part of getting to know one’s materials!
You can click on the sketchbook page to view it larger on my Flickr photostream.
I've added a PDF coloring page of a scrubby young sea grape tree (with a leaf inset) if you'd like to download it for your class or home school use. Just a warning: it's 2.03 MB, so download times may vary depending on your connection. I've found that the best way to download PDF's for a PC is to right-click the link and use the "save target as" feature and save it to my computer before opening. Let me know if you have any problems and I can email it to you directly. Here is the link: Seagrape coloring page