Thursday, January 27, 2011

Going Native: Wild Grape

I'm guessing Vitis riparia, Riverbank Grape – we live by a river so that seems to be of place. Though from what research I have attempted, wild grapes can be difficult to identify. It will grow upwards of 36 - 72 ft. Yes, mine will envelope our house if I let it.

Another vine has taken over the back fence which is fine by me as it is a chain link fence and I would love to cover it up in any way I can. It climbs up into nearby trees, when I let it. Songbirds do seem to relish the fence of living grape, another characteristic of Riverbank Grape. Once it treated a small flock of Cedar Waxwings – worth the occasional reining in with the pruners. Once I spied a flying flash of orange, an Oriole, possibly an Orchid Oriole. Yellow warblers and wrens rustle behind its leaves in the summer.  Some have nested among its cover in decorative bird houses.

Though pretty and appetizing to the birds, the grapes don't taste very good to you or me ... sour. They are a beautiful dark blue, almost black and the leaves yellow in the fall. The contrast is beautiful. In the summer, the large leaves make a perfect privacy screen. In the winter its older, thick, twisted vines catch the snow.

I let this vine grow up the lattice work on our front porch. It had been cut to the ground when we moved in and the lattice was barren – a poor attempt at weeding? Lucky for me. I love the cinnamon color of its stems and the dark blue of its berries against the stark white of winter. White Christmas lights tangled in its tendrils with a sparkle of snow, brighten the season.

It takes me ten minutes to prune the top vines so that it does not jump onto the roof or the nearby electrical lines. I would call that pretty maintenance free. I appreciate this native even though some consider it a weed. The chickadees are now lured to the front porch and last spring, a Robin set up house. That makes it especially attractive to me.

If you are a grape vine guru and I have misidentified this wild grape, please, I would appreciate it if you let me know. Thank you.


  1. Dear Violetfern, I think you very clever to use a native climber such as this grape to cover a chain link fence, offering shelter and food for birds while being a lovely green cover for you. Your birdhouses are wonderful. Lovely post . . . great photos too!!

  2. Hi TVF, I love this grape too, and it's wonderful that it's native, at home and so happy where it's growing, and provides food and shelter for the birdies.The fruit look like blueberries.cheers, cm

  3. I have seen a vine in the vacant yard next to ours a vine that has very similar leaves to the ones you are showing and now, after seeing this post, I am wondering if it is a wild grape. I have not paid it too much attention, but now I am curious, and will have to watch next summer to see if it has wild grapes.
    P. S. I very much enjoyed your comment on my last post. Have a terrific weekend! Jennifer

  4. You have caused me to rethink a plant I put on my mental list for undesirables. It grows up in our shrubs and threatens to strangle them. But if I see it spring up in another area I believe I'll leave it alone! Love your photos.


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