Wild Grape Vine (Riverbank Grape)
IMPORTANT: A similar plant named Menispermum canadense (common moonseed) is poisonous. Click here for more. (Grape vine leaves taste like grapes.)
The wild grape vine is truly a vining plant; this means it has no solid, upright trunk. This climbing, multi-stemmed vine can grow so well it can totally envelop bushes and trees. Although the wild grape vine is also known as the riverbank grape, it grows well in locations other than riverbanks. There are dozens of species of wild grapes found growing throughout the world. All are perennial, woody vines that are deciduous. Grape vines grow thicker and higher than most other native vines.
Distinguishing Features: The wild grape vine climbs very well due to forking tendrils. (These are narrow branches that grasp by coiling themselves around anything they can.) Grape tendrils most often are found growing from a stalk opposite from a leaf. Most grape vines produce deeply lobed leaves similar to the cultivated grape. Wild grapes grow in pyramidal, hanging bunches and are blackish, dark blue or purple.
Flowers: Tiny white flowers in elongated clusters grow up to 10 cm in length. They bloom in early summer, after which tiny clusters of hard, green grapes develop. In late summer these grapes ripen. Wild grape vine flowers are hermaphrodite and are insect pollinated.
Leaves: Leaves are green, alternating, cordate (heart-shaped at base) and lobed. They have long pointed tips, are coarsely toothed along the margin and the leaf surface is smooth.
Height: Grape vines can reach heights of 17 metres.
Habitat: Wild grape vines grow in many locations such as along roadsides, fence rows, forest edges and along river banks. They are also sometimes found in hardwood forests, growing up along with the trees after logging, fire, or a windfall as they cannot reproduce in the shade.
Edible parts: The ripe grape can be eaten but tastes better after the first frost. They are not that large so eating them as a trail snack is suggested. Making juice from these is a great way to benefit from their goodness and the grapes freeze well so they can be used for juice throughout the winter. The leaves are also edible. They can be eaten in a salad (they have a tangy citrusy taste) or cooked. Throughout the Mediterranean, grape leaves are stuffed with rice, meat and spices. These are known as Dolma and there is also Warak Enab. The leaves can be blanched and frozen for use throughout the winter months.