Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Coma Brushland Fruit

Getting to know the edible and medicinal native plants in your region is perhaps more important than any other skill you might acquire along with an in depth knowledge of fashioning primitive traps. Every region has its share of plants that the ancients utilized both as food or medicine and in the construction of shelters and hunting tools. You’ll find an article on my experiments with potential native bow woods of the Coahuiltecan geographical region below:


Search my blog and you’ll also find several articles on edible plants. I plan to include many more.

One fruit in particular that has been a favorite of mine since boyhood comes from a small tree called coma. The coma tree grows to a height of about 20 feet though depending on soil type and proximity to water sources the height can vary dramatically. I’ve seen coma trees growing alongside ox-bow lakes (we call them resacas in South Texas) that went upwards of 35 feet high.

As usual, we’ve been suffering from a nasty drought but I’m always amazed at how certain species, despite little to no rainfall, manage to stay ultra-green and produce an abundant crop of berries. The coma is one of those plants. No doubt these attributes did not go unnoticed by those who lived in the region long before Europeans showed up.

A member of the Sapodilla (Sapotaceae) family the coma tree is generally given the scientific name, Bumelia celastrina.  


When ripe the berries take on a purplish color and a single tree can hold a couple of thousand berries.


The berries are oblong shaped and usually about a half-inch long. They contain a small seed that you’ll spit out as you chew the ultra-sweet pulp. Folks, these things taste like candy. They are perhaps the sweetest berry growing in the Brushlands of South Texas and on into northeast Mexico.


If you’re ever in South Texas between mid-April and late June and you happen to wander the Brushlands then look for a coma tree. Now take extra care that you have, in fact, identified a coma and not some other plant; one in particular known as coyotillo (ko-yo-tee-yo) (Karwinskia humboldtiana) is deadly! So it’s probably best you accompany an expert through the woods before you start picking and eating juicy looking fruit.

A note about nomenclature: I’ve spent a lifetime studying and writing about nature and the environment, especially South Texas and the Southwest United States. Some people call coma, by the name la coma.  That common name is in error: A term applied to a plant by some lazy botanist who once upon a time didn’t bother to check his/her facts. The word la in Spanish means “the” and calling the plant la coma is simply saying “the coma” which makes no sense and tends to aggravate serious naturalists and biologists who are sticklers on proper folk-name or common name usage. Oh well, we’ve all got our pet peeves.     

20 comments:

  1. I remember eating coma fruit back when I was a kid living in Mexico, Nuevo Leon. Nice memories, I wish I could plant one coma tree in my backyard where I live. But I've tried growing them from seeds with no luck... Thanks for sharing this information!

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    1. If you live anywhere in the Southwest you can grow coma as long as you make allowances for temperatures and water availability. I know people who have grown coma from seeds. I'll see about posting something on how it's done.

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  2. Hi i live in South texas, and i have a coma, tree planted in my bakyard.This tree is bloombin very pretty with a nice floral scent, its about to bare some fruit.All of us in the family like it.....

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  3. That's good news, Eduardo. Coma provides a tasty treat as well as a place for birds to nest and as you probably know birds also love the fruit. I like coma also because it gives great shade as an evergreen.

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    1. Thank u for the info.do u think this time of the year,my coma tree will bare fruit cuz its really bloomin.About how many time doese it give out fruit a year.?

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    2. Yes, Coma will flower between May and November and will bear fruit afterward. So the coma tree in your yard should have berries soon!

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  4. Hi how can i get a hold on some of youre books.....

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    1. My books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and from Texas A&M University Press. If you'll note the top of the blog you'll see three small boxes with the names of my books, Adios to the Brushlands; Keepers of the Wilderness; and my e-book novella, The Trail.

      Thanks, Eduardo. Hope you enjoy reading them.

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  5. Hello have you ever seen a type of worm that lives in a coma tree,I have seen a couple of them in the past,do you know of any worm or bugs in the coma tree.Would like to send you a pic. of it.

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    1. Eduardo,
      I sent you a couple of emails with info regarding the photo you sent me. I believe what you've got is called a "puss caterpillar" or "asp." Watch out for those because they can be nasty.

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    2. k thank you for the info.my dad says those things burn like heck.But i also think they thrive in another tree named el palo blanco.

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  6. Palo blanco is sugar hackberry

    I would like information on how i could attain some coma seedlings or seeds?
    Please help

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    1. Please drop me an email at thewoodsroamer@gmail.com and let me know where you are located. I will try to provide you with information on where in your area you can obtain the coma seeds or seedlings or where you can possibly order them.

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  7. We had a Coma tree in Rancho Las Pitas many years ago near Rio Bravo, Tamaulipas and that is the only Coma that I have ever seen anywhere, would anyone know where I can go here in RGV to find Coma trees?? places like Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge or other places here that you know they have at least one tree there...I'd like to take my kids and show them what they are, as well as Granjenos!! thanks for your help mdo.cesar@gmail.com Cesar Maldonado

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    1. Cesar,
      Coma trees are found in areas where the soil is high in clay but with a bit of sand as well. Usually coma trees grow in areas with a pH of between 7.5 and 9.0. The granjeno tree is found abundantly in the western part of the South Texas Sand sheet but you can find both granjeno and coma at Bentsen State Park west of the town of Mission, TX. Take the Wilderness Trail and you'll spot granjeno about midway along the tail. As for coma I think you might ask one of the rangers at the park to show you and your kids where the coma trees are located. There used to be a lot of coma plants just east of the pavilion but I'm not sure if they are still there.
      Hope you and your kids enjoy the field trip.

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  8. We had been collecting fruit from a neighbor's coma tree for years but I found a coma tree in my backyard last month. My husband says he had seen it growing and he was planning to cut it because he thought it was a weed. We cleaned it out when I recognized what it was, now it looks like a small tree about 10 feet tall. We didn't see it bloom but we have been collecting fruit for 2 weeks now. The fruit is sweeeeet...

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    1. Glad to hear the news. I'm wondering how the plant ended up in your backyard. Perhaps a mocking bird brought the seed over from some neighbor's tree. Anyway, that's great to hear that your coma tree is producing fruit. Enjoy!

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  9. Note: Phrases like "las comitas trees" are simply the diminutive form of the root word, coma. In other words, the term comitas is simply an endearment and that type of phraseology is common in Spanish.

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  10. I used to eat comas at my grandmother's house here in Laredo Tx. I've asked about the tree at nurseries, but no luck. I'm so happy i saw your blog. Maybe now i can once again eat comas. I wonder why they're not sold at grocery stores.

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