Muscadines Are Grapes Native To Wakulla
By Les Harrison
Wakulla County Extension Director
There are a wide variety of native vines which grow in Wakulla County. Most deliver nothing more than irritation and aggravation, with a few producing attractive flowers.
Some are exotic invasive plants which have caused environmental harm and economic damage to the unlucky landowner. Old world climbing fern and Carolina jessamine are two local examples which fall into this category.
One native vine, however, can be a welcome addition to any natural or landscaped area. As with any beneficial native plant, some management is usually required.
The muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia) is native to the southeastern United States and was the first native grape species to be cultivated in North America. The natural range of muscadine grapes extends from Delaware to central Florida and occurs in all states along the Gulf Coast to east Texas.
Sometimes generically known as scuppernongs or bullis grapes, these antiquated terms are accurately applied to larger varieties of muscadines. These species are usually a greenish or bronze color and commonly found on wild vines.
Skin colors range from light bronze to pink, purple to black, and the flesh is clear and translucent for all muscadine grapes. Two to four seed are in the center of the wild muscadines.
Most scientists divide the Vitis genus into two subgenera: Euvitis (the European, Vitis vinifera L. grapes and the American bunch grapes, Vitis labrusca L.) and the Muscadania grapes (muscadine grapes).
Muscadine grapes will perform well throughout Florida, although performance is poor in calcareous soils or in soils with very poor drainage. Vines do best in deep, fertile soils, and they can often be found in river beds.
Wild muscadine grapes are functionally dioecious, which simply means there are male and female plants. Male vines account for the majority of the wild muscadine grape population.
These grapes are propagated from seed and by a natural tendency of shoots to form roots when they make contact with the ground. Muscadine grapes are very easy to propagate asexually.
Muscadine grapes are late in breaking bud in the spring and require 100-120 days to mature fruit, usually in late summer. Typically, muscadine grapes in the wild bear dark fruit with ordinarily four to ten fruit per cluster.
This native vine tolerates the local insect and disease pests with few ill effects. Birds and squirrels can be a problem since they enjoy these grapes too.
These vines are known to climb even the tallest trees in an effort to maximize their sun exposure. The heavy, sinewy vines can break smaller limbs and provide a habitat for insects harmful to the host tree.
If a productive vine is located in the wild, it is a simple process to take cuttings and establish a vineyard in a convenient location. The most common propagation method is to make two to three cuts on shoots 1/4 to 3/8 inches in diameter in June or July.
Simply insert the basal end of the cutting in a light textured soil or potting media. Keep the roots and leaves moist until roots have formed which usually about two weeks.