Riverbank grape is a widespread North American native. The species, riparia,
is named for its preference for wet places—the banks of rivers and streams,
ravines, peninsulas and islands in lakes, etc.
Identification: These vines (technically, lianas) manage to climb their way
up to 50' (15 m) into trees or anything else it can wrap its forked tendrils around. Stems are smooth
and green or dull reddish brown when young, becoming thick (up to 3" (7.6 cm) around) and
woody with age, with reddish, exfoliating
bark. Leaves have three and sometimes as many as seven lobes, with coarse teeth and
They are alternate, and are 4-8" (10-20 cm) × 2½-6" (7-15 cm).
Lower leaf surfaces are covered with a bloom or fine hairs; upper leaves are shiny green.
Flowers are yellowish-green, in loose spikes up to five inches long, appearing from May to July.
Individual flowers are small and inconspicuous.
Grape clusters are smaller
in size than for many other grape species. The grapes are smaller too, ¼-½" (6.3-12 mm) around, and black, with a strong
”bloom” of blue. They appear from July to September. Each grape contains two to four seeds.
Edibility: Fruit is edible raw or dried as raisins, tasting sour
unless harvested after a frost. Several sources say it makes a good jelly—for this purpose, the grapes should
be harvested when younger, since the pectin content is higher.
They were harvested by native Americans. The young leaves, wrapped around foods and baked, flavor the food.
They can also be boiled and eaten with butter.
Vitis riparia at the University of Wisconsin's Robert W. Freckmann Herbarium