grape vine (Vitis spp.)
COMMON NAMES: Common names used for the three species of
Vitis species in Facquier County include: 1) fox grape (Vitis labrusca),
2) frost grape (Vitis vulpina), and summer grape (Vitis aestivalis).
Grape vines are found throughout most of Sky Meadows State Park.
Currently, only summer grape has been tentatively identified; how-
ever, other species may be present.
SCIENTIFIC SYNONYMS: The Vitus genus is complicated and
there is not universal agreement with its taxonomic delination; there-
fore, substantial changes have been made in nomenclature over the
years. Each species has from a few to several synonyms; individual
species have to be referred to for particular synonyms.
CONFIRMATION STATUS: Confirmed.
TAXONOMY: Vitis (grapevines) is a genus of about 60 species of
vining plants in the flowering plant family Vitaceae. The genus is
made up of species predominantly from the Northern hemisphere.
The species occur in widely different geographical areas and show
a great diversity of form. However they are sufficiently closely relat-
ed to allow easy interbreeding and the resultant interspecific hybrids
are invariably fertile and vigorous. Thus the concept of a species is
less well defined and more likely represents the identification of dif-
ferent ecotypes of Vitis that have evolved in distinct geographical and environmental circumstances. Hybrid grapes also exist, and these are
primarily crosses between Vitus vinifera and one or more of Vitus
labrusca, Vitus riparia or Vitus aestivalis. There are many cultivars
of grapevines; most are cultivars of Vitus vinifera.
The Atlas of Virginia Flora lists three Vitis species occurring in
Facquier County: 1) Vitis aestivalis Michx., 2) Vitis labrusca L.,
and 3) Vitis vulpina L.
NATIVE STATUS: All three Vitis species occcurring in Facquier
County are native to the United States and two of the three are native
to Canada (Vitis labrusca having been introduced to Canada).
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Wild grapes
are perennial climbing or trailing vines. Distinguishing characteristics
include large leaves with veins extending like fingers from the point
where leaf and leaf stalk (petiole) join, forked tendrils that persist be-
coming dark and brittle over time, shredding bark, and fruits that are
smaller than but similar in appearance to commercially available
Wild grape vine stems have brown bark that appears shredded and falls
off in strips. Aptly described as a climbing shrub, wild grape vines are
capable of climbing over trees and blocking enough of the light reaching
the trees to harm or even kill them. Thickets of wild grape can be found
growing over shrubs, shading them, or along the ground. Leaves are altern-
ate (1 leaf per node), 2 to 5 inches long, wide, and have toothed edges.
Leaf veins radiate out like fingers on a hand from the point on the leaf
where it attaches to the petiole. Leaves may or may not be lobed. If lobed,
they usually have 3 parts. Although specific leaf shapes and characteristics
vary among species, wild grape leaves are generally maple-leaf or heart
shaped. Leaves are deciduous and generally do not change color before
falling off. The flowers are greenish flowers form in long clusters. The
fruits consists of clusters of purplish-black berries that are smaller in size
and less sweet than fruits of cultivated grapes. Roots are generally woody
and often live for years.
REGENERATION PROCESS: Reproduction is by seeds, and stems
sprout readily if cut.
SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Wild grapes grow in woods, on riverbanks,
along fencerows, and in managed areas such as orchards, vineyards, tree
plantations, and landscapes. Preferred soil type differs among species and
ranges from moist and rich to sandy and dry. Most species grow best in
full to partial sun.
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Wild grapes flower in late spring to
early summer. Berries are produced from August until frost.
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Most of the 50 or 60 species in the Vitis
genus are native to eastern and central North America.
SKY MEADOWS DISTRIBUTION:
Vine specimens can be found on trails marked in red.
Appalachian Trail/Old Trail
South Ridge/North Ridge
Rolling Meadows/ Lost Mountain
IMPORTANCE AND USES: Birds and other animals eat the fruits
and disperse seeds. Wild grapes are occassionally grown for ornamental
purposes, although they can be invasive.
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Sky Meadows Park
Crooked Run Valley