Muscadine is another one of those plants highly associated with the southwest Florida landscape, although it is considered rare in most of the Florida Keys. This high-climbing vine is distinguished by its leaves, which look like a heart cut out of shiny green paper with pinking shears. In botanical terminology, muscadine’s leaves are cordate (heart-shaped) and serrate (with toothed margins). This vine is a member of the grape family. After blooming small, green flowers, muscadine produces small clusters of grapes that take roughly four months to signal their ripeness with a deep purple coloration. Some wildlife species dine on muscadine grapes, like raccoons, squirrels, and white-tailed deer. The jagged leaves may be chewed as well, since this native vine is the host plant for the nessus and mournful sphinx moth caterpillars.
Muscadine was the first native grape to be grown for human consumption in the U.S. One great advantage of growing native edibles is they often survive well with minimal or no pesticide applications. This vine can be started from seed or cuttings. Muscadine prefers well-drained soil with some organic content and can handle full sun and drought conditions once established. Muscadine grapes are harvested between July and September and can be made into jelly, juice, and wine. Other than cultivation for its grapes, muscadine can be used as a privacy fence if trained on a trellis. Make sure to keep a close eye on this vine, which has been observed to grow in masses in wild pinelands. Check out a visually appealing and well-trained example of muscadine grape in the Naples Garden Club Idea Garden at Naples Botanical Garden.
Author: Andee Naccarato, Department of Education and Conservation, Naples Botanical Garden
Originally published by the News-Press