Plant of the Month, August 2020: California Wild Grape

California Wild Grapes at Debs Park

California Wild Grape

Vitis californica 

If you have been to the Center, chances are you've noticed the beautiful grape vines that decorate the walkways of our courtyard. As a deciduous plant, the CA wild grape vines change with the seasons. During the spring and summer the leaves are a vibrant green, and are typically covered with grapes by late August or early September. In the fall, the leaves turn to stunning hues of red, orange, and yellow. By the winter, the vines are bare and they remain dormant until the coming spring. 

Native to Southern Oregon and California, CA wild grapes can typically be found along streams and rivers. They are an important food source for many local birds, such as the cedar waxwing and northern mockingbird, and animal species like coyotes and possums. Humans can eat the grapes as well, although they are small with large seeds and tend to be more tart than the grapes you might find in the grocery store. The native Tongva use CA wild grapes for a number of purposes, including food, medicine, and basketry. 

They can be a great addition to many backyard restoration projects as the vines can easily be guided to cover arbors or trellises, or to wrap around existing trees and landscaping. They are also quite easy to grow, provide great shade, and are drought tolerant once established! However, do keep in mind that they can grow quite aggressively and often require regular pruning. 

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