Native North American Grapes
Vitis Rupestris

bunch grapes

"Rupestris wine sent to France was there judged as
decidedly the best American claret yet tested."

Vitis Rupestris

Vitis Rupestris (Scheele): Commonly, the Beach Grape, Bush Grape, Currant Grape, Felsenrebe Grape, Ingar Grape, July Grape, Mountain Grape, Rock Grape, Sand Grape, and Sugar Grape; botanically, Vitis Populi Foliis (Lindh.), Vitis Rupestris var. Dissecta (Eggert), and Vitis Vinifera var. Rupestris (Kuntze).


General: A small, many branched shrub or, under favorable conditions, slightly climbing; usually 6-8 feet or less, ascending or prostrate, sometimes trailing over rocks or bushes. The clusters are small, with dark berries about the size of currants that vary from sweet to sour. The berries have a sprightly taste devoid of any disagreeable foxiness. It naturally favors gravelly banks and bars of mountain streams or dry, rocky or sandy beds of water courses. It is considered drought-resistent, but not if the land dries out deeply. It was widely and successfully used in France as grafting rootstock where deep roots were desired.

Leaves: Small in size, thick, broadly cordate or reniform, wider (15-20 cm) than long (5-10 cm), scarcely ever slightly lobed. Young leaves are frequently folded along the midrib with light-colored underside visible. Smooth, glabrous on both surfaces at maturity. Margin rather coarsely toothed, frequently ending in a sharp abrupt point at terminal.

Grapes: Small (12-24 berries) clusters of small, 6-12 mm diameter, globular berries, somewhat flattened endwise; black or purple-black with much pigment under the skin. Skin thin, pulp pleasant (by james). Seeds small, not notched; beak short, rather blunt. Leafing, blossoming and ripening early (late June to August).

Distinguishing: Tendrils red if present, but rare.


The habitat of this species is southern Missouri to Kentucky, western Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, eastern and central Texas to the Rio Grande, westward into New Mexico. Wild stands in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington, D.C. are probably due to escaped cultivars. It is most abundant on dry, sandy and rocky river beds and gravelly banks and bars of mountain streams. They tolerate hot, dry southern exposures but do not withstand deep drought.


Not noted as a long-lived grape.

Horticultural Considerations

Rupestris is remarkably resistant to phylloxera. Its propensity to put down deep rather than lateral roots make it especially suited to dry, rocky soils on southern slopes. It bench-grafts well but is less successful in field grafts. It is not widely cultivated in the United States as rootstock and its own fruit are unprofitable. It is more widely used as rootstock in France.

Cultivars and Hybrids

Cultivated French rootstocks are variously known as Rupestris Mission, Rupestris do Lot, Rupestris Ganzin, Rupestris Martin, Rupestris St. George, and other names. These have no American counterparts other than simple Rupestris.

Last update was November 3rd, 2000.

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