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How to Identify Grape Plants

By Elizabeth Punke ; Updated March 06, 2018
How to Identify Grape Plants
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Grapes are valued outside of the kitchen thanks to the grand architecture of their vines. Identifying grape vines will assist you in taking the proper steps to care for this beautiful plant. For example, certain grape vines can withstand harsh winters; some cannot. Correctly identifying your grape plant and giving it precise care will help it flourish.

Is It Even a Grape Plant?

Thousands of varieties of domestic grape plants are available around the world, and each has its own unique characteristics. However, there are some traits that virtually all grape plants share, and this can help you determine whether a plant growing in your yard is indeed a grape.

First, all grape plants have heart-shaped leaves. There may be three or five lobes on the leaves depending on the variety, and the edges may be smooth or jagged. However, that tell-tale heart-shape is always present.

Next, these vines will have tendrils that help the plant climb higher and higher toward the sun. Tendrils do not have any leaves, flowers or fruits attached to them. Looking for tendrils is a quick way to tell whether you're dealing with a grape plant or an impostor. For example, one plant commonly mistaken for a grape vine is the poisonous Canada Moonseed, and it does not have tendrils, even though the rest of the plant looks very similar to a grape vine.

Finally, the fruit itself will hang in clusters and be round to oblong in shape. The fruit can appear in many colors, from green to purple to virtually black, and may have up to four seeds.

Identifying Different Varieties of Grapes

With a long history of cultivation, grape plants come in many shapes and sizes. Once you know that you're dealing with a grape plant, the next step is to determine which kind you have.

Touch and review the leaves of the foliage on the vine. The ever-famous Concord grape vine has a teardrop-shaped leaf that encompasses the size of six to seven grapes. The Niagara grape vine has a leaf that is shaped like a maple leaf, but with jagged edges all the way around. The leaf is nearly the size of the bunch of grapes that hangs beside it. Note your findings, including the size, softness and thickness of the leaf.

Determine the colors of the leaves and berries. The Alden grape vine has yellowish-green foliage and a deep purple, almost blue-toned berry. On the contrary, the Bokay grape vine consists of white to very pale green berries and a bright green leaf.

Open a grape to see if it is a seeding variety or not. The Delight grape vine produces pale green grapes that are seedless. On the other hand, the Steuben grape vine does have seeds within the berries. Record this distinction along with the size and color evaluations you have made.

Take three pictures of your vine: during the first bloom of the year, while it is full of berries and again during dormancy. Grape vines may appear to resemble one grape variety, such as the true purple-toned Concord and Steuben, and may fool the eye. However, the foliage of the Steuben turns a strong red in the fall. This difference is valuable when determining the variety.

Cross reference your findings with a reputable grape information website or encyclopedia. There are many grape species and hybrids; therefore a quality source will help you determine the exact cultivar of your vine. Armed with the knowledge of the grape variety growing in your yard, you can learn how to care for it to its full potential.