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Riverbank Grape

Common Name: Riverbank Grape.

Scientific Name: Vitis Riparia.

What to look for?  Mass of large, green leaves on vine climbing, clinging and enveloping bushes, plants and shrubs! The Riverbank Grape is the most common wild grape found around the Midwest. It is a woody vine with well-developed tendrils that wrap around nearby plants, shrubs or other objects to help the vine climb. A single vine can be upwards of 30 to 50 feet long. Leaves are green to yellowish on top with lobes that are generally sharp-pointed serrated margins; some leaves have heart-shaped look. Later in the summer, the Riverbank Grape will medium blue to black berries – i.e., grapes. The root system consists of a central taproot that branches only occasionally.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? From late spring and through fall, you can find the Riverbank Grape scattered around the walking path going north along Carillon Stonegate Ponds and the fields adjacent to the woodlands. Notice how these vines overwhelm other vegetation! Is this concerning?

How big are they? Riverbank Grape can grow or climb 35 feet or more. The leaves are up to eight inches long and eight inches across. Each flower cluster is approximately two to four inches across. The flower clusters become dangling as fruit develops. Fruit is a round berry that is approximately one-half inch in diameter.

Where do they grow and thrive? Riverbank Grape is native to Illinois and much of the U.S. except the Southwest and the far south. It is also native to the lower central and eastern Canadian provinces. Riverbank Grape is commonly found in floodplain forests, wooded swamps, marshes and savannas. In prairie habitats such as Illinois, this plant is usually near sources of water, woodland borders, or disturbed areas.

When do they bloom? The Riverbank Grape blooms during late spring and lasts about two weeks. The flowers are replaced by berries that develop during the summer. The berries mature during late summer or fall.

Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? Because of its berries, the Riverbank Grape is relished by songbirds, gamebirds, waterfowl and mammals. Bumblebees, small bees and hoverflies visit the flowers to seek pollen. The caterpillars of many moths and a variety of insects feed on the leaves.

Interesting Facts About the Riverbank Grape:

  • Some consider Riverbank Grape a weedy pest, sometimes creating dense masses and smothering other plants, shrubs, bushes and small trees – walk down our pathway north next to Carillon Stonegate Pond, what do you think?

  • The Riverbank Grape does not recover very well from wildfires and controlled burns.

  • The genus “Vitis”, is the Latin name for 'grape vines'. The current species name “riparia”, is from the Latin referring to 'banks of rivers'- leading to the 'riverbank' in the common name.

  • The fruits of the Riverbank Grape are roughly similar to those of another plant, Canada moonseed (Menispermum Canadense), which are reported to be poisonous with potentially fatal consequences – so stick to fresh fruits at Jewel, Meijer or Mariano's!

For more information on the Riverbank Grape and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, University of Texas Wildflower Center, Minnesota Wildflowers, and Friends of the Wildflower Garden.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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