Compared to its native range of southern Florida, the Caribbean and Central America and northern South America, the Cocoplum (Chrysobalanus icaco) grows in harsh conditions. Often encountered in the sandy soil near the sea, plants endure wind, salt spray and hot, baking sun. New growth on this evergreen shrub branches arises coppery wine in medium green color before maturity. Some nurseries sell variations that indicate deeper, striking burgundy-red pigmentation on new growth and refer to them as red-tip cocoplums, sometimes erroneously called the variety Red-Tip.
Size and Habit
The mature size and growth or silhouette of Cocoplum varies greatly. Genes and environment contribute to how large the plant matures. In dry, sandy soils and winders, as along the coast, Cocoplum tends to grow at a slower habit, perhaps up to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Inland and in garden settings cocoplums can reach a larger or small shrubby tree-like form, 6-15 meters high and 8 meters wide. Plants are usually grow slower when sunlight and moisture is lacking. The reddish new growth occurs on native plants in the hinterland of southern Florida, according to plant Creations, a native nursery in Homestead, Florida.
New branches are smooth and green and display new leaves that are very shiny and reddish. Normally, the plants are labeled with unusually red new growth as red lace cocoplums, to help distinguish them from the typical, somewhat less ornamental cocoplums. The leaves are rounded with a touch of heart-like silhouette. Leaves are in an alternating pattern in two lines or rows perpendicular to branches. Tiny greenish-white flowers appear in clusters at the bases of leaves on branch ends any time of year. If pollinated, the flowers are one-seeded fruit, white to dark colored purple are – the "Cocoplums."
Red-tip cocoplums offer a decorative aspect of a landscape with an array of soils and exposures. A plant can be grown individually as informal accent or small tree or in a tight range and sheared as a hedge. Cocoplums stabilize dunes near the coast to reduce erosion. The fruits are edible raw, made with their slightly sweet to mild flavor, or in jelly or jam. The seeds of the fruit are rich in oils and are edible. Carib Indians lined the seeds on sticks and lit it for use as candles. In addition, a specialty honey is made from the nectar.
Grow any form of Cocoplum in regions that rarely or never experience frost and freezes, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture plant climate zones 9b and warmer. Full sun exposure promote the densest growth and production of leaves, flowers and fruits. It tolerates partial shade. Any soil that does not flood accessible growing Cocoplum. An evenly moist, fertile soil with organic matter promotes faster growth in the heat of summer compared to dry, sandy soil and irrigated.