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Vitis labrusca - L.

Common Name Northern Fox Grape, Fox grape
Family Vitaceae
USDA hardiness 4-9
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Wet or dry thickets and woodland borders[43].
Range Eastern N. America - Maine to S. Carolina and Tennessee. Locally naturalized in Europe[50].
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (1 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Vitis labrusca Northern Fox Grape, Fox grape

Vitis labrusca Northern Fox Grape, Fox grape
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. Vol. 2: 506.


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of climber
Vitis labrusca is a deciduous Climber growing to 15 m (49ft 3in) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves  Oil  Sap  Shoots
Edible Uses: Oil

Fruit - raw or dried for winter use[1, 2, 46, 61, 161]. The fruit can also be made into pies, preserves etc[183]. A distinctive musky aroma and taste that is not acceptable to many people[11, 183, 200]. The fruit is best after a frost[101]. Sweetish[43], it contains 6.6 - 16.6% sugars[179]. The fruit is up to 2cm in diameter[200] and is produced in fairly large bunches[235]. Young leaves - cooked[55, 159]. A pleasant acid flavour, they are cooked as greens or can be wrapped around other foods and then baked, when they impart a pleasant flavour[183]. Young tendrils - raw or cooked[55, 85, 159]. Sap. Best harvested in the spring or early summer, it has a sweet flavour and makes a pleasant drink[101]. The sap should not be harvested in quantity or it will weaken the plant[K]. An oil is obtained from the seed[46, 61]. This would only really be a viable crop if large quantities of grapes were being grown for wine.

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

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Miscellany  Poultice  Urinary

The leaves are hepatic[257]. An infusion has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea, hepatitis, stomach aches, fevers, headaches and thrush[222, 257]. Externally, the leaves are poulticed and applied to sore breasts, rheumatic joints and headaches[222, 257]. The wilted leaves have been applied as a poultice to the breasts to draw away soreness after the birth of a child[257. An infusion of the bark has been used to treat urinary complaints[257].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Miscellany  Oil  Rootstock

A yellow dye is obtained from the fresh or dried leaves[168]. The plant is used as a rootstock for the common grape, V. vinifera, especially in areas where phylloxera disease is prevalent[61].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a deep rich moist well-drained moderately fertile loam[1, 200]. Grows best in a calcareous soil[200]. Succeeds in sun or partial shade though a warm sunny position is required for the fruit to ripen[200]. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. Plants climb by means of tendrils[182], they grow particularly well into elm trees[18]. The flowers have the sweet scent of mignonette[245]. Any pruning should be carried out in winter when the plants are dormant otherwise they bleed profusely[182, 200]. Cultivated for its edible fruit in N. America, where it can produce yields of up to 17 tonnes per hectare[183]. It is the parent of several named varieties[1, 43, 183]. However, it is of no value as a fruit bearer in Britain, requiring hotter summers than are usually experienced in this country in order to ripen its fruit[11]. Another report says that this species is of interest for its hardiness and its ability to produce crops in cooler climates[200]. Resistant to Phylloxera disease, a disease that almost destroyed the European grape crops. This species can be used as a rootstock in areas where the disease is prevalent[61] and can also be used in breeding programmes with V. vinifera in order to impart resistance to that species[183]. Plants in this genus are notably susceptible to honey fungus[200]. For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. Woody. Growth habit is a single or multiple shooting vine from a crown [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe[K]. Six weeks cold stratification improves the germination rate, and so stored seed is best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is obtained. Germination should take place in the first spring, but sometimes takes another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in early summer. Cuttings of mature wood of the current seasons growth, December/January in a frame. These cuttings can be of wood 15 - 30cm long or they can be of short sections of the stem about 5cm long with just one bud at the top of the section. In this case a thin, narrow strip of the bark about 3cm long is removed from the bottom half of the side of the stem. This will encourage callusing and the formation of roots. Due to the size of these cuttings they need to be kept in a more protected environment than the longer cuttings. Layering.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Erik Johnson   Sat Sep 29 06:21:21 2001

Most cultivars susceptible to Pierce's Disease. If you live in the SE USA, you'd be better off planting muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia)--which have a different flavor, or recently developed "southern" cultivars (Orlando Seedless, Daytona, etc). These might be vinfera types; I have no personal experience with them. Susceptible varieties generally die within 3 years.

("Hardy to Z7," probably a severe underestimate, might confuse snowbirds into thinking that this, rather than the muscadine, is the appropriate species for the South.)

   Jul 15 2010 12:00AM

The Article alleges that the fruit of Vitis Labusca possesses"A distinctive musky aroma and taste that is not acceptable to many people." I must say, this is utter rubbish! While the flavour of the fruit of wild Vitis Labrusca vines is highly variable, ranging from intensely sweet with a strong berry-fruit flavour to the sub-acid and vinous, There is absolutely no such "musky" taste or aroma whatsoever. In fact many of the world's most highly esteemed grape cultivars are drawn from Vitis Labrusca stock. Perhaps foremost among these is the famous Concord grape, which is used to make the most exquisite juice, jams, jellies, preserves and pies. Here in North America, The flavour of this grape is popular for every sort of sweet and confection imaginable from Grape Jolly Ranchers to Grape soda, In Our version of Skittles Candies the Purple skittle is based on this fruit. Fine wines are made from Varieties such as Catabwa, Deleware, and Niagara, while the most scrumptious fresh eating grapes are those of the varieties: canadice, reliance, and Van Buren to name but a few. Frankly, Taken as a whole the grapes of the species Vitis Labrusca IMHO have far superior eating and juicing qualities to those of Vitis Vinifera cultivars, which quite honestly tend to be rather bland if not downright insipid. In Addition, outstanding wines with deep, complex flavors are made from Vitis Labrusca. It comes as little surprise to me that this species is sometimes disparaged as inferior to vitis vinifera, This is but a historical remnant of European coloniaist attitudes in the form of lingering botanical prejudice.

   Dec 14 2013 12:00AM

I have a semi wild plant that was taken from a 50 year old plant in East TN. I transplanted it to my place in Middle TN 5 years ago. It has grown TREMENDOUSLY and blooms profusely ever spring. However it will never set a single piece of fruit. I was thinking I might need another vine to pollinate, but according to this article that is not required. Does anyone have a suggestion of something I should try? Thanks

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