COCOPLUM

Also Known As
ENGLISH:
Paradise Plum [2]
FLORIDA, MICCOSUKEE:
Hika-ki - Miccosukee name. [12]
FLORIDA, SEMINOLE:
Hecaco - Florida Seminole (Creek) name. [12]
Hika-ka: Pi - Seminole name for the plant. [12]
BAHAMAS TO GUYANA (Including: Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago):
"Fat Pork"." [2, 12]
HAITI:
Icacco. [12]
HISPANIOLA (TAINO):
Hicaco (also icaco and jicaco). [10,12]
MEXICO, CHIAPAS:
Caco. [12]
SPANISH, OLD NAME:
Cacos. [12]
OTHER NAMES:
Abajeru [2]
NOTE: More Mexican, Caribbean and Central American names are listed in Florida Ethnobotany by Daniel Austin,
POSSIBLY: Tococo (eat new fruit) to the Timucua. [12] 


Order:   Malppighiales
Family:   Chrysobalanaceae
Genus:    Chrysobalanus
Species: icaco

Florida c s

Edible Parts
Fruit Nut Caution
Animal Interaction
Insect Bird
Other Uses
Jelly Medicinal Soap Dye Ferment Hedge Windbreak
This native shrub grows wild along the coast in maritime hammocks, coastal dunes and inland in swamps, canal edges, moist forests and cypress hammocks from the Florida Keys up the east coast to Brevard county and up the west coast to Pasco county. It has been extensively planted as a landscape hedge and is found in more expanded areas near the coast. Fruits most often ripen to a dark purple-black, while other varieties may be pink, reddish, pale yellow, or white. Out on my favorite state park, Cayo Costa, many ripen to a lovely light pink color. Some folks claim the purple fruits to be juicier and therefore more choice. A few others that I know would choose the large pink varieties to be of better quality. I like 'em both equally! The ancient Florida Glades people consumed these fruits (drupes) in ancient times as do some Seminole to this day. A decent number of you know that the skin and pulp is edible, having a cotton candy-like consistency and slightly sweet flavor. Not too many of you know that the inner kernel (the seed inside the shell) is not only edible, both raw or cooked, but is quite delicious and is, in fact, my favorite part. It reminds many of a sprouted almond, being quite delicately flavored. I often use a pocket knife or toothpick to remove the seed. Although the inner kernel is edible, be careful not to crack a tooth should you try to open the large kernel to get to the tasty kernel. You would be wise to crack them open with a tool. It is a common practice to make jelly from cocoplums in the Caribbean. I once made a fruit-and-nut spread from the pulp and the crushed seeds... it was wonderful! Some foragers, such as Erica Klopf, recommend salt-curing them and then putting them in oil, which does turn out to be quite yummy. You can try roasting the seeds as well. Wild birds consume the fruits, the shrubs provide cover for many animals, and many pollinating insects visit the flowers. 



CAUTION: Although the inner kernel (the seed inside the shell) is edible, be careful not to crack a tooth should you try to open the large kernel to get to the tasty kernel. You would be wise to crack them open with a nut cracker or similar tool. As it is so often clipped into a manageable hedge, take care not to harvest fruits from sprayed plants. I would advise asking homeowners if they spray their hedges or not. 
EDIBLE FRUIT: Both the ancient Glades people here in Florida and modern day Seminole tribespeople have consumed the fruits. [8] The skin and pulp is edible. The slightly sweet pulp has a cotton candy-like consistency. I like Green Deane's description of the texture, "like wet marshmallow fluff." [9] One of Daniel Austin's students described it as tasting like "sweetened cotton." [12] Some folks enjoy them, as I do, and some don't. Be careful not to bite into the large, single kernel. It is a common practice to make jelly from cocoplums in the Caribbean (see recipe below). They are also made into jam and sauces. I know one Floridian who made a wine from them that they liked very much, although I have never tried it. I once made a fruit-and-nut spread from the pulp and the crushed seeds... it was wonderful! Some foragers, such as Erica Klopf, recommend salt-curing them, then placing them in oil, which does turn out to be quite yummy (see recipe below). Julia Morton tells us that they have also been canned and sold commercially in Cuba, Brazil, and Costa Rica. [12,13]
EDIBLE INNER KERNEL: The inner kernel of the fruit is edible both raw or cooked. It reminds me of a sprouted almond. To Green Deane, it "tastes like granola," being "delicious, absolutely wonderful." I must say, Deane's website, eattheweeds, has helped me greatly over the years, and we are so fortunate that he has done the vast majority of his research-in-the-wild here in Florida. Thanks Deane! By the way, I often use a pocket knife or toothpick to remove the seed. The seeds may be roasted and eaten as well. Daniel Austin mentions toasting them. [12]
EDIBLE-MEDICINAL SEED OIL: Daniel Austin writes, "In Brazil, the oil from the kernel has been substituted for almond oil in medical ointments." {12,13] "Oil in the seeds may be 20-22% by volume." [12]
MEDICINAL BARK, FRUITS, ROOTS, LEAVES  AND LEAF EXTRACT:
- Antidiabetic [12]
- Antifungal
- Antioxidant
- Astringent - Leaves and bark [12]
- Diarrhea [12]
- Dysentery [12]
- Hypoglycemic
"Chrysobalanus icaco plays a role in traditional medicine in some parts of its native range, and has been the subject of scientific investigations that have provided evidence of hypoglycemic, antioxidant, antifungal and other pharmacological properties of the leaf extract." [4,5,6, via 2] "The bark and leaves are high in tannin and therefore astringent." [12] "One of the primary uses is to treat dysentery (in Trinidad, a decoction of bark and roots is used to treat that problem)." [12] "In El Salvador and Brazil, an infusion of fruits, leaves, and bark or roots in boiling water is taken t treat diarrhea." [12] "In Brazil, and elsewhere, the bark is considered antidiabetic." [12]
OTHER MEDICINAL USES: Are listed in the book Florida Ethnobotany (check online as well). [12]
CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS: For a list of some of the chemical constituents check Florida Ethnobotany online. [12] 
USEFUL BRANCHES: The branches were "used to make arrows by Seminoles." [8]
AS CANDLES, SOAP, AXLE GREASE: The seeds may be "strung on sticks and burned as candles. They were the original torches of the regions where they grew. Not only do the seeds produce light, but the oils have also been used to make candles, soap, axle grease, and other similar products." [12,13]
SEEDS AND LEAVES AS A DYE: "Kernels, along with the leaves, create a black dye. Alo.ng the Amazon, the kernels are used to dye fishing nets to make them resistant to decay." [12,14]
WILDLIFE: "Provides significant food and cover for wildlife." [11] "Attracts various pollinators. Birds and other wildlife consume fruit." [12]
HEDGE OR SPECIMEN TREE: It is  often planted as a clipped evergreen hedge. "It can be pruned into a multi-trunked small tree or specimen shrub." [1] I like to see hedges that have been "wildly trimmed." Keep in mind that it is somewhat hurricane wind resistant.
RITUAL USE: Seminole ritual uses, although written of in Florida Ethnobotany, are omitted here out of respect. 

Recipes

BRINING RECIPE FROM ERICA KLOPF: 

"Fill up a jar and cover them in salt. Let it sit for maybe two weeks and then rinse them and put them in olive oil in the fridge for a week and then they are like olives." 

From "Tastey Cocoplum Jelly" on ambergriscaye.com: 

"Now, here's the recipe. Fill a large pot with plums. Add water until all plums are covered. Add two or three pounds of brown sugar and then start to boil. Once it is boiling, lower flame to simmer for several hours. Add some cinnamon sticks. Soon the flesh of the cocoplum and the sugar will make a clear brown jelly with a unique taste that is typical only of Ambergris Caye and a few other places in the tropics. Now here is a little secret very few people know, and I want you to keep it a secret for long. Crack the nuts that are now well cooked and break them into small pieces, and scatter it in the jelly. Now you have delicious cocoplum jelly with nuts. Ummmm, that is super delicious."
CLICK HERE TO GO TO THEIR WEBPAGE 

More Details

NATIVE TO: "Throughout tropical Africa,  tropical Americas and the Caribbean, and in southern Florida and the Bahamas." [3] Coastal areas of Florida and inland in coastal hammocks, the Everglades, etc.
HABITAT: "Swamps, moist forests and coastal beaches and thickets." [11] Coastal dunes, cypress hammocks, wetland areas. [8] Maritime hammocks. [11] "Coastal swamps, beaches, cypress domes, Everglades tree islands, edges of ditches and canals." [12]
INVASIVE: It has become invasive on many tropical islands. [3] 
ETYMOLOGY: Chrysos, Greek, golden. Balanos, "acorn or glans penis." [12]
DESCRIPTION - Evergreen shrub or small tree. Most often multi-branched. 
CULTIVARS: Cultivars include the inland ecotypes "Red Tip" ("this most commonly sold variety," 7) and "Green Tip," and the coastal ecotype "Horizontal" (a good choice as a groundcover in warmer parts of the state). They are commonly available from native plant and other commercial nurseries. Regional Conservation suggests "choosing ecotypes or forms adapted to the local environment" to "enhance success." [11] 
HEIGHT: 15' tall. [1] Rarely to 20-35' tall.
RATE OF GROWTH: Moderate. [7]
SPREAD: 15' [1]
SPACING: For a hedge, plant 3-4' apart.
TRUNK: To 12" diameter, usually smaller. [11]
BARK: "The bark is greyish or reddish brown, with white specks." [2]
LEAVES: "Emerging foliage is an attractive maroon color." [1]  Broad, leathery, glossy, slightly indented at the tip, oval, alternate, almost round leaves, to 2.5" long and wide. Lighter green beneath. [11]
FLOWERS: Small, whitish-green.
FLOWERING SEASON: Year-round, "but more abundantly in late spring." [2] "All-year, peak winter-sprig. [11]
FRUIT: A drupe, round, usually ripens to a dark purple-black. Coastal forms tend to be pink, pale yellow, or white, and are rounder. [7]  Inland forms tend to be dark purple (or reddish) and are less round. [7] Very thin edible skin.
FRUITING SEASON: The high point of fruiting here in west-central Florida seems to peak out in August. Green Deane says Spring to Fall, "favoring the spring and late fall." [9]
SEED: The fruit "contains a five- or six-ridged brown stone."
CULTURE -
LIGHT: Full sun to partial shade. [1]
COLD HARDINESS: They receive frosty and freeze damage in zone 9 and do best in USDA zones 10 or 11. The Florida Native Plant Society rates it best for zones 10A - 11. [12]
SOIL: Tolerates a wide range of soils. [1]
SOIL pH: The Lee County Extension Office states that it tolerates a wide pH, including as alkaline as 8.4.
SOIL AMENDMENTS: Plants respond well to a top dressing of cow manure or  compost/mulch. [7]
TOLERANCES: Moderately salt tolerant. [12] Tolerates urban conditions quite well. Moderately (to low) drought tolerant once establish. [7,11]  It tolerates some seasonal inundation / flooding. [11]. Resistant to hurricane winds. [12]
PROPAGATION: "Can be grown from de-pulped seeds. Germination may take several months. More commonly grown from hardwood cuttings under mist, which is useful if the same form of plant is desired." [11,12] 


Flowering Calendar
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D


Flower Color
Green

Fruiting Calendar
J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D


Fruit Color
Black
Bearing Age
2 years

Habitat
Coastal Cypress Hammock
Native?
Native


Plant Form
Woody Evergreen Perennial Shrub
Height
15 feet
Width
15 feet
Rate of Growth
Moderate


Hardiness Zone
10a to 11b
Ease of growth
Easy
Light
Part Sun Full Sun
Soil
Poor Sandy Rich Clay
Tolerances
Salt Tolerant Wind Tolerant Flood Tolerant
Spacing
3 feet



Sources for acquiring

Available at many native and commercial plant nurseries in warmer parts of the state. 


References

[A] Tim Marshall gave permission to use his photo of ripe cocoplums in a bowl July 29, 2018. Thanks Tim! 
[1] hort.ifas.ufl 
[2] Wikipedia 
[3] Key World Checklist of Selected Plant Families, via Wikipedia 
[4] "Chrysobalanus icaco—Coco-plum", Francis, John K., U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, International Institute of Tropical Forestry, San Juan PR. 
[5] Presta, Giuseppe Antonio et al. (2007). Effects of Chrysobalanus icaco on the labeling of blood constituents with technetium-99m and on the shape of the red blood cells. Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology, 50(spe).
[6] Bastos Silva, João Paulo et al. (2017). Antifungal activity of hydroalcoholic extract of Chrysobalanus icaco against oral clinical isolates of Candida Species. Pharmacognosy Research, 9. 
[7] South Florida Plant Guide 
[8] IFAS publication:  50 Common Native Plants Important In Florida’s Ethnobotanical History, Ginger M. Allen, Michael D. Bond, and Martin B. Main. 
[9] eattheweeds coco-plum video on YouTube [9:59 mins.] 
[10] Tasty Cocoplum Jelly, an article on ambergriscaye.com 
[11] Regional Conservation 
[12] Florida Native Plant Society 
[12] Florida Ethnobotany, by Daniel Austin 
[13] Julia Morton 
[14] Lecointe, 1947, via Florida Ethnobotany 
Last Updated: July 28, 2018