Muscadines and Other Native Grapes

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I remember my mom used to go down the country roads and pick wild grapes for jelly making. I believe she called them Mustang grapes, but that is too much of a stretch for me to claim I remember them specific name.

Around these parts, we have a variety of wild/ Muscadine-type grapes. In our office, we have an excellent book, Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of East Texas. The author is Elray S. Nixon. I’ve met the illustrator, Bruce Lyndon Cunningham who had a studio in Nacogdoches. (If you are ever at all interested in our native woody plants, this is the perfect book for you.)

In this book, the author lists seven different grape-type (Vitis) plants in east Texas. These are the Mustang grape, Sweet winter grape, Summer grape, Muscadine grape, Fox grape, Riverbank grape, and the Catbird grape.

Another good reference book we have is Native Texas Plants by Sally and Andy Wasowski. Now their book covers all of Texas and this book lists 22 locally named native grapes! I really have a hard time believing there are 22 separate varieties and they do allude to that, but the fact remains, there are lots of variants of wild grapes that occur naturally.

For folks wanting a native grape arbor, Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) are the largest bearing native grape of which there are many developed varieties. Muscadines work very well in our climate and are incredibly disease resistant (something that their European relatives have great difficulty with.)

Deep sandy and slightly acidic soils are best, although they are quite tolerant of other soil types. Lime is not needed, and light fertilization will supply all they need.

If shade is an issue, realize that Muscadines can do fairly well in a dappled shade environment. Heck, much of their habitat is under the shade of our large pines. However, for maximum production, plant them in a location that will receive a full eight hours of sun.

What is definitely needed is a sturdy fence, arbor or other structure on which the vines will grow. Over time the vines will become quite strong and if you are a successful grower, you’ll have plenty of weight to support. In fact, think a couple years down the road to make sure that you can prune the vines so that they will not cover the house or otherwise get unruly.

If planting just one vine, you’ll want to be sure to chose well, as some need a pollinator while others are self-fertile.

Varieties to consider for self-fertile varieties include: Carlos (a bronze colored grape), Cowart (black), Ison (black), Janebell (bronze), Magnolia (bronze), Noble (red), and Triumph (bronze).

Female blooming varieties that do need a pollinator include: Darlene (bronze), Fry (bronze), Higgins (black-bronze), Hunt (black), Jumbo (black), Pam (bronze), Scuppernong (bronze), Summit (bronze), and Sweet Jenny (bronze).

Most bronze varieties are commonly referred to as Scuppernongs are favored by many. All types will be enjoyed by any and all wildlife you have in the area, so be prepared to share.

Depending on variety and climate, Muscadines ripen in late summer to early fall. Pick when soft and with a dull bloom on the fruit.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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