This hearty small shrub looks more like a bunch of oak seedlings than anything else. Underground it grows with an extensive maze of stems that send up slender woody shoots with evergreen oak-like leaves. The leaves are stiff, simple, alternate, and about 2-4 inches long and 1 inch wide. The Gopher Apple only gets about a foot or so above ground, but a single plant can easily spread its subterranean stems and branches over more than 100 square feet. I have many colonies of Gopher Apple growing at the 40 acre woods.
The flowers are small, yellowish clusters, and on a triangular shaped stem that stands a little above the leaves. The fruits start out green, turning dirty white when ripe, and about an inch long. Ripe fruits are edible and soft, and taste kind of like bland pink bubblegum to me. The fruit has a single large seed inside.
Gopher Apple is a darn tough plant that grows naturally in dry sandy soils and is quite tolerant of drought conditions. I have read that Gopher Apple is extremely hard to reproduce from a cuttings or transplant. I am collecting fruit to grow more colonies from fresh seeds, I want to have more of this great ground cover growing at the 40 acre woods.
Many of the animals at the 40 acre woods including rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, opossums, deer and the threatened gopher tortoise, seek out the fruit. Like other native plants, colonies of Gopher Apple are a step towards a sustainable ecosystem that supports the native wildlife and an occasional hungry Hillbilly.
We like our Gopher Tortoises and our Gopher Apples at the 40 acre woods.