Sea grapes have always bugged me. It’s weird and I don’t know why, they just always have. There’s a hedge around the corner that seemed more and more out of place and pointless every time I walked by it…until recently. My visit to De Soto National Park has had me rethinking my stance on the sea grape. I gained a new appreciation for them that day - their history, appearance and usefulness. Now I can’t stop noticing sea grapes…in a good way.
An odd tidbit of history is what initially drew me in. Apparently, long before the stringent postal regulations of today, sea grape leaves were used as postcards. Tourists would write messages on them and mail them home. You could affix the stamp straight to the leaf. And before tourists, it’s believed that DeSoto and his comrades were using them as playing cards.
As sea grape leaves die, they harden. They’re as thick as heavy paper and easy to write on or decorate. The one flaw is that they become brittle and can snap. The live leaves won’t snap, so they open up a whole other realm of craft possibilities. First I found this how-to blog post on crafting the leaves into plates and bowls. Then I saw a Q and A in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune with local Master Gardener Jane Smith:
Q: What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever done with a plant?
A: I was invited to create a costume for a fashion show at the Art Center Sarasota. I made a dress out of sea grape leaves, which I embellished with gold leaf and some paint. The last I heard the “dress” made it to another fashion show at Selby Gardens.
I tried to find a picture of the dress somewhere but no luck; surely, it was gorgeous. The live leaves are so much prettier than I ever gave them credit for. Before they die, they turn red. So for living in the South, sea grapes are as autumnal as they come.
The trunks are equally as impressive in all their multiples.
Sea grapes are salt-tolerant and wind-resistant, so they’re often found along shorelines. That explains the “sea.” The “grape” is derived from the fruit it bears, which forms in grape-like clusters. They’re edible too; this link will take you to a recipe for sea grape jelly.
Sea grapes line the pathway between Bayfront Park and Selby Gardens.
But sometimes living in Florida is so much cooler than sea grapes and sunshine. I got to experience a sonic boom today! I heard and felt the space shuttle Discovery reentering our atmosphere for the last time ever. Incredible! If only I had know what it was at the time. It wasn’t until an hour later when a friend asked me if I had felt it that I knew immediately I had. It stopped our conversation the clap was so jarring. Our office is on a busy street, so the initial thought was that someone got rear-ended at the stoplight. It’s funny now to know what it actually was. Oh, and the high was 82 degrees today…it was a good day to be in Florida.