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Wild Grape Vitis riparia

Other Common Name(s):

Other plants called Wild Grape:

Previously known as:

  • Vitis riparia var. praecox
  • Vitis riparia var. syrticola
  • Vitis vulpina subsp. riparia
  • Vitis vulpina var. praecox
  • Vitis vulpina var. syrticola
Phonetic Spelling
vee-tiss ri-pair-ee-uh
Description

Riverbank grape is a fast-growing, climbing, or trailing vine in the Vitaceae (grape) family that grows up 75 feet long. This woody perennial can climb over tree trunks and up into the canopy of trees by the use of tendrils. It can potentially kill small trees and shrubs due to heavy shading. The vine is distinguished by its reddish-brown bark that shreds into narrow strips, and its heart-shaped, three-lobed leaves with toothed margins. Tiny clusters of sweetly scented yellow-greenish flowers appear in the spring and are followed by clusters of bluish-black fruits in late summer and fall.  This plant is a member of the Vitaceae or grape family.

Riverbank grape is native to North America. It is found in Central to Eastern Canada to Mexico, the eastern United States, and portions of western United States. It is commonly found in disturbed areas of lower and upper woodlands, dunes, thickets, riverbanks, abandoned fields, and along railroads.

The origin of the genus name, Vitis, is Latin for "grapevine." The species name, riparia, means "of the riverbank."

This plant fruits best when grown in full sun; however, it can become aggressive. It is tolerant of most soil textures and pH levels and prefers moist to dry soil. Propagation methods include stem cuttings and seeds; however, the plant may be slow to start from seed. The seeds may also be dispersed by birds or small mammals.

The leaves are 4 to 6 inches long and about as wide. The young leaves are yellow, shiny, and covered with hairs that disappear as the leaf matures. Mature leaves are green with reddish petioles. The tiny flowers are arranged in 3-to-8-inch panicles. The fruits are clusters of bluish-black grapes covered in white bloom. The berry has 1 to 4 flat, egg-shaped seeds.

The flowers are pollinated by bees and bumblebees. This plant serves as a source of cover and food. The fruits of the riverbank grape are enjoyed by birds and small mammals. The fruits are edible for human consumption and may be eaten fresh, dried, or made into jellies. It is important to properly identify the plant before ingestion because other similar-looking plants are poisonous.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark:  Winter    Bloom: Late Spring and Early Summer    Foliage: Spring, Summer, and Fall      Fruits: Late Summer and Fall   

Quick ID Hints:

  • Reddish-brown bark that shreds and peels into narrow strips
  • Alternate, simple, heart-shaped, toothed, and lobed leaves
  • Tendrils arise at a node opposite of the leaf
  • Leaf petioles are red

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: The plant may be frequented by aphids, leafhoppers, beetles, mites, thrips, and scale insects. Japanese Beetles enjoy the foliage, and can cause significant damage. The leaves may also be attacked by leaf galls. Powdery mildew may also occur. The riverbank grape may become weedy and aggressive in full sun which results in the dense foliage that can smother other plants. It is more controlled in shadier areas. 

VIDEO created by Grant L. Thompson for “Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines for Landscaping” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University.

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Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#full sun tolerant#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#yellow flowers#weedy#native perennials#tendrils#spring flowers#food source wildlife#fast growing#NC native#climbing vines#woody vine#blue fruits#edible fruits#fruits fall#sprawling#deciduous vine#pollinator plant#black fruits#exfoliating bark#vine#partial shade tolerant#native edible#bee friendly#perennial vines#fruits late summer#fall color#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#deciduous#full sun tolerant#fragrant flowers#wildlife plant#yellow flowers#weedy#native perennials#tendrils#spring flowers#food source wildlife#fast growing#NC native#climbing vines#woody vine#blue fruits#edible fruits#fruits fall#sprawling#deciduous vine#pollinator plant#black fruits#exfoliating bark#vine#partial shade tolerant#native edible#bee friendly#perennial vines#fruits late summer#fall color#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Vitis
    Species:
    riparia
    Family:
    Vitaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America
    Distribution:
    Native to Canada: Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Quebec; Mexico Northeast; United States: AL, AR, CO, CT, DC, IA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NE, NH, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI, SD, TN, TX, VT, VA, WV, WI, and WY; Introduced: Czechoslovakia, France, Hungry, Italy, Sardegna, Saskatchewan, Sicilia, South European Russia, Spain, and the State of Washington.
    Wildlife Value:
    They are a food source for insects, songbirds, game birds, waterfowl, and mammals.
    Climbing Method:
    Tendrils
    Edibility:
    The berries are sour until the first frost then they become sweeter. They may be eaten fresh, dried, or made into jellies or wine. It is important to properly identify the berries before ingestion.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Edible
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Vine
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Climbing
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Appendage:
    Tendrils
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Blue
    Green
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The immature fruits are small green berries. As they mature, the berries become bluish-black with a white bloom and measure 1/4 to 1/2- inch in diameter. They appear in clusters and mature in late summer and fall. They contain 1 to 4 flat, egg-shaped seeds.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are about 1/8 inch in diameter. They have 5 tiny green to yellow petals. There are male and female flowers. The male flower has 5 long stamens and a button center. The female flower has a pistil, short style, and 5 functionless stamens. The tiny fragrant flowers are arranged in panicles up from 3 to 8 inches long. The flowers appear from late May to June and last about 2 weeks.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Cordate
    Leaf Margin:
    Dentate
    Lobed
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves measure 4 to 6 inches long and nearly as wide. They are simple, alternate, heart-shaped, 3-lobed, and the margins are toothed and hairy. Young leaves are yellow, shiny, and covered with hairs. As the leaf matures, the upper surface is green and hairless, and the lower surface is paler with hairs along the major leaf veins. The leaf stalks are 3 inches long, reddish, and may be hairy or smooth. The fall leaf color is yellow.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Exfoliating
    Peeling
    Shredding
    Bark Description:
    The bark is reddish-brown, exfoliating, shredding, and peeling in long strips. The trunk of a mature vine can measure up to 8 inches in diameter.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The branches are yellowish-green to reddish and smooth. There are a few hairs at the nodes. The tendrils develop opposite of the leaves and become woody as they mature.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Riparian
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Problems:
    Weedy