Wild Grape
Vitiaceae (Grape) Family

All wild grapes are high-climbing, trailing, or sprawling, deciduous woody vines climbing by tendrils, and may be branched or not.   Their leaves are simple (consisting of one whole part) and palmately veined (veins arising from the point of joining to the leaf stalk); heart-shaped or round-ovate in form.  It is generally accepted that some teeth will appear along the leaf margins; however, one exception could be the Fox Grape, Vitis labrusco, which may have a few large scattered teeth.

The flowers of all wild and cultivated grapes are in a panicle arising from the leaf axil; inconspicuous greenish-yellow, and having nectar glands.

Fruit is a spherical berry of dark purple or tan coloring when ripe. Each berry contains 1-4 seeds which are usually red or brown -- all are edible.

There are 10 species known to the southeast, but in the Escambia region there are four that are most familiar; Muscadine, Fox, Downy Winter (may also be known as Riverbank), and Summer (also known as Pigeon).

Since the wild grape is associated with the ripening of fruit in late summer and autumn, this page has been placed where it might be most familiar -- the Autumn Gallery.


Bullace Grape, Muscadinia rotundifolia
(Michaux) Small var. munsoniana (J.H. Simpson ex Planchon) Weakley & Gandhi

Summer leaf of Bullace (Muscadine)


Riverbank Grape, Vitis riparia - Michaux


Summer Grape, V. aestivalis var. cinerea
Also known as Pigeon Grape - Engelmann ex Millard

Pigeon Grape (or Summer Grape) is a native perennial woody vine found throughout most of Alabama, occuring in hardwood floodplain forests, in lowland woods, on stream and river banks, and in swamps. It is a woody vine up to 40 feet in length, climbing by tendrils. The tendrils are branched. The bark is reddish gray and exfoliates in strips. Young branches are green in color, slightly angled, and sparsely to densely arachnoid. The leaves are alternate, stalked, deciduous, heart-shaped to 3-lobed in outline, with toothed margins; sparsely to densely cobwebby downy below and smooth to downy above. The flowers are produced in a thyrsi opposite a leaf; functionally unisexual and yellowish green in color. Each flower has a calyx reduced to a small rim and 5 small petals. The fruit is a black berry with 1-4 seed. The fruit is consumed by a wide variety of birds and small mammals; edible but usually sour. However, they can be made into an excellent jelly.


Fox Grape, V. labrusca
(Photo courtesy Florida Institute for Systematic Botany)

Fox Grape may also be known as the American Bunchgrape.   This is the parent of the Concord, Catawba, Chautauqua and many other cultivated grapes.   Is is often referred to as "summer grape," which may be confusing, as the true Summer Grape has a leaf form that is quite different; however, the two vines are very closely related and usually display differing leaf shapes. The defining difference is that the Fox Grape flower will appear opposite at least three consecutive leaves (or buds) while with Summer Grape the flowers do not follow that rule and usually skip the third leaf and the grape clusters are smaller, thus the name "bunchgrape," as the fruit hangs in long tags presenting a huge cluster of ripe grapes.

Catbird Grape, V. palmata


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