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Vitis vulpina (commonly known as frost grape,winter grape or fox grape) is a herbaceous perennial vine of the family Vitaceae (Grape). The genus name Vitis comes from the Latin word for "vine" and the species name vulpina comes from the Latin word for "fox-like" or belonging to a fox. It is believed that foxes were attracted to this type of grapevine and Linnaeus used the term vulpina to differentiate these smaller wild grapes from the other American known grapes. The more common name, frost grape, refers to the fact that this otherwise acidic/tart-tasting grape becomes more desirable and sweet once it is exposed to a frost. The frost grape is found in much of the eastern half of the United States from New York to Minnesota. Traditionally V. vulpina is a high-climbing woody vine with a thick trunk and red tendrils. The grapes and the vine itself have many uses ranging from herbal remedies to edible delicacies.
Vitis vulpina has a relatively long lifespan with a moderate growth rate. Typically the vine will reach a maximum height of about 83 feet. Contrary to the name "Frost Grape," the plant does not do well in cold temperatures below -23 degrees F. The only benefit of the frost on the grape is further ripening of these grapes between the months of September and October. The berry (grape) is round and very tart/acidic, becoming sweet after a frost due to a drop in acid levels as the grape decomposes. Along with the ripening of the grapes in colder months, the leaves eventually fall off as the plant enters the dormant stage. Grapes tend to shrivel up on the vine, turning into raisins if not harvested before meteorological winter. The shriveled grapes are advantageous for animals looking for food during these months.
The grape vine can be either monoecious or diecious, with flowers appearing in May to June. The flowers are arranged in compound panicles with 5 yellow petals, 5 sepals and 5 stamen (floral number is 5). The leaves are arranged alternately with a cordate shape. Venation is palmate. Unlike other wild grapes there are no tufts of hair present on the leaves. Tendrils appear every third leaf oppositely are reddish in color and used for growth along surfaces. The grapes are tiny and dark purple.
The frost grape is found in the eastern half of the United States (in Alabama, Arkansas, the Carolinas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan,Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia), and in Canada (Ontario).
It is most commonly found in moist or dry soils in woods, flood plains, and ravines. Due to its known ability to climb, the vine is often used along fences and trellisses for ornamentation.
Commonly used for wine making. The sweet taste from the high sugar levels and drop in acidity after a frost allow for wine fermentation or preserves. The grapes are wanted when sugar is at its maximum but before the grapes lose their color and tannin components. Many parts of the plant are used in herbal medicines. The leaves of the plant are used sometimes for liver treatments because they are considered hepatic.[medical citation needed] When the leaves are wilted, they are used as a poultice to relieve tenderness of the breasts after childbirth.[medical citation needed] The bark can be infused to treat urinary problems.[medical citation needed]
- Vitis vulpina was first published in Species Plantarum 1: 203. 1753. GRIN (January 24, 2011). "Vitis vulpina information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
- "Profile for Vitis vulpina L. (frost grape)". PLANTS Database. USDA, NRCS. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
- Vitis cordifolia was first published in Flora Boreali-Americana (Michaux) 2: 231. 1803 (non Lam. 1793) GRIN (January 15, 2011). "Vitis cordifolia information from NPGS/GRIN". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved May 18, 2011. "Synonym of Vitis vulpina L.; an illegitimate later homonym (Vienna ICBN Art. 53) that is unavailable for use; a taxonomic, not nomenclatural, synonym of V. cordifolia Lam."
- Vitis cordifolia var. foetida was first published in: American Naturalist 2(6): 321. 1868. "Name - Vitis cordifolia var. foetida Engelm.". Tropicos. Saint Louis, Missouri: Missouri Botanical Garden. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
- Vitis cordifolia var. sempervirens was first published in Rev. Vitic. 5: 165. 1896 10990 "Plant Name Details for Vitis cordifolia var. sempervirens". IPNI. Retrieved May 18, 2011. "Distribution: Manatee County (Florida, Southeastern U.S.A., Northern America)"
- Vitis illex was first published in Gentes Herbarum; Occasional Papers on the Kinds of Plants. [Hortorium, Cornell University] iii. 217 (1934). "Plant Name Details for Vitis illex". IPNI. Retrieved May 18, 2011.
- "Vitis vulpina L.". Michigan Flora Online. University of Michigan Herbarium. 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-09.