Vitis rupestris

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Vitis rupestris
Vitis rupestris Weinsberg 20071016.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Vitales
Family: Vitaceae
Genus: Vitis
Species: V. rupestris
Binomial name
Vitis rupestris

Vitis rupestris is a species of grape native to the Southern and Western United States that is known by many common names including July, sand, sugar, beach, bush, currant, ingar, rock, and mountain grape. It is used for breeding several French-American hybrids as well as many root stocks. Rupestris St. George has been widely used in breeding and as a root stock; it is perhaps the best known.

Vitis rupestris is a self-supporting bushy plant that does not grow in the shade, and was once found in well-drained prairie draws that collect water. Grazing has forced it into less grazed creek beds. Heavy use of grazing and herbicides have killed out much of the population. Vitis rupestris has been listed as threatened or endangered by Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.[1] Known locations of wild Vitis rupestris are quickly disappearing, which may threaten the future of this grape species.[2]

Distribution and ecology[edit]

Vitis rupestris has a wide range of some 1500 miles across the southern United States stretching from southern Kentucky and Tennessee through southern Illinois, southern Missouri, northwest Arkansas, Oklahoma and south west Texas. [3]

It grows in sandy gulches and on hills, but is subject to heavy grazing pressures due to its bushy growth habit as it doesn't grow up into trees as other Vitis and so is unable to escape browsing by cattle and sheep. [4] This has led to it becoming threatened across its range, although it survives in areas such as roadsides where grazing animals are absent.

It is not reported as native north of the Ozark hills which is thought to be through past browsing by buffalo and deer. [5] It is found hybridized in parts of its range with the Riverbank grape and other Vitis species.

Botanical description[edit]

Growth is tapering, erect , much branched and rarely climbing more than 4 to 8 feet. The roots are slender, wiry and deep and enable it to resist drought by spreading deep underground to find the water table. [6]


Wood is smooth and red when young, becoming cylindrical and finely striated when mature with dark colored bark that becomes darker with age. Wood is quite persistent with age and dense but not hard. Buds are small, globose or slightly conical. Tendrils or small and crimson colored with short internodes. [7]

Leaves are lanceolate with large stipules with crimson veins. Petiole are deeply and broadly grooved throughout the length. Leaves are distinctly striated and nearly always smooth. Width of the leaves are usually 3" to 4", sometimes 5" [8]

Clusters are very small, sometimes shouldered. Rachis is smooth and light green. Flowers are fertile, stamens recurved and bent laterally with flowers producing abundant pollen. [9] Fruits are 1/4" to 1/2" in diameter, round or slightly flattened around the stem and often doubled like two berries coalesced. The berries are black with little bloom, skin is very thin and tender and pulp is tender and melting. Pulp is deeply colored crimson or violet and part clings closely to the skin. [10] The berries bear 3 to 4 small seeds on clusters around 8" long. Germination is quick and fruit ripens early. The species is able to bear fruit on young shoots pushed out by 2 to 4 year old wood if last year's wood has been lost to winter damage. [11] Propagates easily from cuttings and pollen is very prepotent in fertilizing and hybridizing with other Vitis species. [12] Germination is quick and fruit ripens early. The species is able to bear fruit on young shoots pushed out by 2 to 4 year old wood if last year's wood has been lost to winter damage. [13]

Pest and disease resistance[edit]

Has great resistance to drought due to its deep roots penetrating the water table. Where it is unable to do this though it is subject to injury. Foliage is well adapted to resisting fungus and insect attacks, although favored by many grazing mammals. Occasionally attacked by anthracnose bit with minimal injury and resistant to black rot, downy mildew and powdery mildew. [14]

Significance and use[edit]

Widely used in hybridizing with other species (mostly Vitis vinifera and Vitis lincecumii) to produce disease resistant Hybrid grapes. The species was used extensively to produce varieties able to withstand Phylloxera on their own roots and withstand attacks of Downy mildew. Breeders that used the species frequently include T.V. Munson, Albert Seibel (see: Seibel grapes), Joannes Seyve and Elmer Swenson (indirectly via hybridizing existing varieties containing 'Vitis rupestris'. 'Vitis rupestris' often contributes a large proportion of ancestries of 'French hybrid' grapes (or 'French direct producers') such as Seyval, although it was often overlooked in its homeland in favor of Vitis labrusca.

A large proportion of modern European "PIWI" varieties categorized as Vitis vinifera contain a large 'Vitis rupestris' background such as Solaris and Regent.

Gallery[edit]

References[edit]

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