Uva de Playa or Sea Grapes: The Resort Landscaper’s Plant of Choice

Uva de PlayaOn the resort there is a particular plant that grows seemingly everywhere. This plant is so ubiquitous that the darn thing is even rendered in bronze and displayed proudly behind the front lobby desk.

The landscapers seem to use it willy-nilly where ever they have need of a particular size plant. Sometimes it is a tree. Sometimes it is a shrub. Sometimes a hedge. Sometimes a scrawny stick of a plant.

It grows in the soil near the resort building and wild in the sand on the beach. I have seen the landscapers brutally whack all the outer leaved branches off so that the plant is bare. I am certain it is to encourage new growth of the younger, shinier leaves but it still says something about the plant’s ability to survive. There are also half dead branches simply stuck in the ground in bare spots by the landscapers, which leads me to believe that this plant will root very easily. I am beginning to suspect that this plants may be regarded as a weed anywhere else on the island but here, it grows so well.

That is not to say that it is an unlovely plant. It has no visible flowers (as far as I have seen) but the leaves are nice. They are dark green, wide rounded fans that are think and leathery to the touch. As mentioned, the new leaves are more attractive due to the fact that they are glossier and a lighter sometimes almost yellowish green. Though I have not seen flowers, there is fruit on the larger plants. They hang down like long vertical bunches of grapes.

Sea Grape LeafI have to ask for different resort employees what the name of the plant is (I imagine that this is not a commonly asked question). One simply shrugs and says “Uva, it’s a beach plant” as though this explains everything. Oddly enough, it is the internet cafe employee who can give me the answer. He tells me it is Uva de Playa, though he is not certain what to call it in English. But that is not a problem. It is an internet cafe, after all. In English, they are called Sea Grapes. Their botanical name is cocoloba uvifera.

A little bit of research tells me that the resort is not alone in using Sea Grapes as a decorative plant. They are used quite frequently in sea side landscaping as the salt water does not affect them and they are very drought tolerant. The fruit are edible and they do have flowers. Just not right now, apparently.

I could not find out if they were native to the island as they do grow everywhere along the coast, but I suspect not. I kind of have to wonder if they were brought to the Dominican Republic by resort landscapers and it, disliking the all inclusive life, escaped down the beach to freedom.

6 thoughts on “Uva de Playa or Sea Grapes: The Resort Landscaper’s Plant of Choice
  1. Michelle on

    From what I understand “la uva de playa” is native to the Dominican Republic, as well as the rest of the Caribbean, Central America and parts of South America. Needless to say, these plants only/mostly grow along the coast.
    Just my 2 cents.

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  2. They are edible as well, they arent that bad, they taste a little acid and are sort of stringent. Ive never tasted It but they also make a drink out of it

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  3. Cora Yara on

    First of all the correct translation is “Uva de Playa”, juice is make out of it, and curiously some licor companies are making liquor, which proves to be delicious.

    As any fruit coulbe be sour or tasty sweet, not a boing flavor like some. After a good day at the beach, eating uvas de playa gives you the sensation of stopping the salty flavor that the beach leaves.

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  4. Caribbean Girl on

    Yummy. I am from Grenada, West Indies and I love these plants! We simply call them grapes. They grow naturally on every beach here, but I’ve never seen them anywhere but on the coast. Growing up, “grape season” was our favourite. When they’re really ripe, they’re reaaaally sweet. They float, so we used to collect them and put them in the water with us while we swam and just eat them with the flavour of the sea on them. I’m getting married this July and I’ll be using the leaves spray painted gold as part of my reception decorations.

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  5. Caribbean Girl on

    Forgot to mention that we use the leaves as fans at church every Sunday.

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  6. Stephanie on

    Hanna, I just came back from Captiva, Florida. I asked a tree trimmer if he would mind my taking some of the sea grape leaves. He said yes so I took a bunch. Wondering if u have any craft suggestions?

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