The grape family in Missouri includes 4 genera, including Virginia creeper and woodbine (genus Parthenocissus), marine vine (genus Cissus), and raccoon grape and peppervine (genus Ampelopsis). But the species most people think of as grapes are in genus Vitis — and Missouri has eight of them. Missouri’s members of genus Vitis have several things in common:
Plants are perennial lianas (woody vines) that typically climb into trees, with tendrils (though often lacking in sand grape, V. rupestris); tendrils positioned opposite to leaves and are often branched (except in muscadine, V. rotundifolia). No thorns or spines.
Leaves are simple (not compound), though they may have 3 or 5 lobes that can be shallow or deep. Leaf bases are lobed (leaves are heart-shaped), with a sinus (notch) where the leaf stem meets the blade. Margin with broad, coarse teeth; tip usually pointed.
Stems often swollen at the nodes; pith brown (easiest to see on branches less than ½ inch in diameter) and usually chambered (seen on older branches); bark usually shredding.
Flowers usually greenish yellow, small; male and female flowers in separate clusters on same plant; petals 5. Clusters 3–5 inches long. Petals are fused at the tip and shed as a caplike unit when the flower opens. Flower clusters are longer than wide, and branch more or less pinnately (like a feather, with no branching of branches), sometimes with umbrella-like branching at the final tip of the cluster. Clusters usually opposite the leaves.
Fruits globe-shaped berries, often blue-black, often with a white, waxy coating. Seeds 1–4 per fruit, pear-shaped.
Six Missouri species have their own pages in this guide; links to them are at the bottom of this page.
- Summer grape (V. aestivalis)
- Winter grape (V. cinerea)
- Red grape (V. palmata)
- Riverbank grape (V. riparia)
- Sand grape (V. rupestris)
- Frost grape (V. vulpina)
In addition to the grape species that have their own pages in this guide, two more species are found in Missouri. Though uncommon in our state, both are famous for their edible fruits:
Fox grape (V. labrusca) is native to eastern North America and is introduced, widely scattered, escaping from cultivation, and uncommon in Missouri. It is the species that became the Catawba, Concord, Niagara, and many other cultivars. Its fruit is noted for its strong, earthy “foxy” aroma and for its skins that easily slip off the pulp of mature grapes. Undersides of young leaves are densely covered with long cobwebby hairs, and tendrils and/or flower stalks are present in at least some groups of 3 or more adjacent nodes.
Muscadine (V. rotundifolia), also called scuppernong and southern fox grape, is uncommon and known only from one Bootheel county (Dunklin). It is the ancestor of the cultivated muscadine grapes used as table grapes, raisins, jelly, and wine. It is unusual for the genus, as its bark remains tight on older stems (it doesn’t shred) and appears irregularly warty. Also, the pith continues through the nodes, and its tendrils do not branch. Some botanists give it its own genus, Muscadinia.