Sea Grapes are Native!

I hope that everyone on the eastern coast of the USA are recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. I have friends and family who still do not have power and some that  have massive property damage. My heart goes out to everyone and hope that things get back to normal soon.

Painting #38 of 52/52 Challenge- Sea Grapes -Watercolor Mlighthipe©2012

All over Florida we have a plant that is used as an ornamental plant but it actually has many environmental benefits. This native plant is called Sea Grape, – Coccoloba uvifera. It actually has been documented to  help sea turtles! Coccoloba uvifera is a remarkable native, salt- tolerant species of plant found along many of Florida’s beaches. Plants appear as low spreading bushes or tall continuous hedges along the sand dunes. This plant can be identified by its thick circular leaves 8” to 10” in diameter and its grape-like clusters of fruit. This fruit is consumed by a number of native birds and mammals, while the protective canopy provides habitat for animals including songbirds, lizards, gopher tortoise and beach mice.

In addition to providing habitat, sea grape helps to stabilize sand dunes and to protect upland structures from storm-induced erosion. In fact, this plant has been deemed important enough to protect under Florida Statute. So how do they help sea turtles?

Throughout the state, stands of sea grape act as a natural vegetative barrier blocking artificial light from nesting beaches and minimizing upland glow. Trimming or removal of this vegetative barrier can increase illumination levels on the beach and deter nesting or disorient hatchlings. This is considered interference with the normal nesting behavior of threatened and endangered species and can expose the property owner to potential fines or imprisonment under the Endangered Species Act (1973) and Florida Statutes 161 and 370.12.

I found this awesome article from the University of Florida. To read more about Sea Grapes visit:
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/beaches/publications/pdf/turtle.pdf

I am not sure that Sea Grapes could have deterred Hurricane Sandy from wreaking havoc, but it may aid in erosion of beaches and continue to provide food and shelter to the animals that live nearby. When ever you can………. Think Native Plants! They have so much to offer.

This original watercolor is available for sale in my Etsy Shop.