By LORRAINE BARNETT
Special to The Gazette
Plant: Wild grapes
Latin name: Vitis species
Description: Growing in Ohio, wild grapes can be found in and among other wild plants. Vines grow tall and attach themselves to trees or bushes in parks, wooded areas, river banks and nature preserves. Much like cultivated garden grapes, the leaves are heart-shaped but grow smaller with thinner woody vines.
Grapes grow upon these vines, too. Small greenish summer flowers form green berry clusters of grapes which turn a deep purple, almost black when mature. The grapes tend to taste sour and slightly sweet, depending on ripeness.
Origin: According to the Ohio State University Extension, dozens of species are native to eastern and central North America. Wild grapes belong to the Vitaceae family.
Tips: Wild grapes continue to grow as they spread by seeds fallen to the ground or by stem cuttings. Ask permission to cut or eat; donâ€™t eat until wild grape is clearly identified.
Varieties: Wild grapes grow in clusters. Each berry is the size and shape of a blueberry. Vines may grow up to 50 feet long.
Found in Ohio: Vitis riparia (Riverbank), Vitis vulpina (Frost Grapes), Vitis labrusca (Fox Grapes), Vitis aestivalis (Summer Grape), Vitis cinerea (Pigeon), Vitis baileyana (Possum Grapes).
How to use: Wild grapes can be planted, admired or used just like a commercial grape. These beauties can be used in recipes like desserts, jams, jellies and juices or just eaten by hand.
The vines are quite beautiful in a natural setting; propagate to grow in a similar garden. Berries begin to ripen from August through frost.