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This climbing woody vine is 10-40' long, branching occasionally. By means of forked tendrils, it is able to climb adjacent vegetation, shrubs, and trees. On very old vines, the base of the trunk can measure 12" across, but it is almost always smaller than this. Trunk bark is brown and very shredded, while mature woody stems are light brown to reddish brown, smooth, and sometimes finely grooved. At the slightly swollen nodes of these stems, the brown pith is interrupted by white gaps spanning 2 mm. across or more. Young shoots are light green and more or less covered with woolly brown hairs, but becoming less hairy with age. The widely spaced leaves are alternate along the shoots and stems; they are 4-8" long and a little less across. The leaves are oval-cordate in overall shape; they usually have 3 palmate lobes that are broad and shallow, while their margins are finely and shallowly dentate (denticulate). The upper leaf surface is dull green (or yellowish green in bright sunlight) and hairless, while the lower surface is brownish white from woolly hairs. On the lower leaf surface, there is a mat of appressed white-woolly hairs, over which there is a layer of longer brown-woolly hairs; the latter have a tendency to fade away with age. The texture of the leaves is somewhat leathery and their venation is palmate. The slender petioles are 4-6" long and more or less covered with with woolly brown hairs that tend to fade away with age. Directly opposite from each leaf, there is either a forked tendril or flowers/fruit. Unlike other Vitis spp. in Illinois, tendrils of Fox Grape often develop across from 3 or more leaves in succession. Sometimes panicles of flowers about 3-6" long develop along the stems of a vine. These panicles are often wider toward their bases than at their tips. Individual flowers are about 1/8" across and greenish yellow in appearance. These flowers can be unisexual (male or female) or perfect. Each flower has 5 deciduous petals, an insignificant calyx that has been reduced to a flat disk, and the reproductive organs. Each male or perfect flower has 5 prominent stamens, while each female or perfect flower has a superior ovary with a short style. The blooming period occurs during late spring or early summer and lasts about 1 week. The flowers have a sweet musty fragrance. Fertile female flowers are replaced by berries that are arranged in drooping panicles about 3-8" long. After they mature during the late summer or the fall, these berries are ½-¾" across and globoid to globoid-ovoid in shape. They are bluish black (rarely amber) and either with or without bloom on the outside, while on the inside they have juicy flesh and 2-6 seeds. The flavor of ripe berries varies from sweet-tart to sweet with musky overtones. This woody vine spreads by reseeding itself.


Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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