Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Backyard Nature Wednesday: Muscadines

One of the disadvantages of living in subtropical Southeast Texas is that we don't get that much autumn leaf color here. There are a few trees, some of them non-native like the Chinese tallow, that do present good color but they are the exceptions. I have a Shumard red oak in my front yard and in some years it has blazing colors, but it's a bit unpredictable. One plant I can depend on showing some fall color is the native grape, muscadine. 

My two muscadine vines, a 'Cowart' and a 'Fry' cultivar, beginning to "color up" in late November.


I grow muscadines in my garden more as an homage to my childhood than for any actual use. Muscadines grew rampantly in the area where I grew up and I used to look forward to picking them in the fall and eating them right off the vine. I also looked forward to the muscadine jelly that my mother made.

In truth, muscadines are not really that great for eating because they have very tough skins and are quite seedy, but I was not a connoisseur as a child and I loved them. They are probably best used for making jellies and jams, and, supposedly, they can make a quite decent wine, although I can't say that I've tried that. 

Here are a few of the fruits of my two vines, muscadine grapes.

Since I only have the two vines, I don't have that many grapes to work with, even in years of heavy production like this one has been. Also, the grapes don't all ripen at once - they ripen in stages, so there are never very many of them ripe at once. Thus, I've never attempted to make jelly or jam or to use the fruits other than very occasionally picking one or two to eat. But the grapes are utilized by the other denizens of my garden. Birds and other wildlife readily eat them and since mine is a habitat garden, that is sort of the point.

In addition to providing food for the animals, the vines also provide shelter and a hiding place for the birds. They are located quite near my backyard feeder system and I cannot begin to count the times I've seen the birds at the feeder suddenly dive into those vines to escape an attack from a Cooper's or a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

As for me, I just enjoy looking at the vines, watching as the leaves turn yellow and the grapes turn purple. They add a lot of fall color to my garden.

A cluster of muscadine leaves in late November is a bouquet of gold.

2 comments:

  1. Muscadines make huge garlands of yellow along woods' edge here in fall. We have scuppernong grapes in the garden, bronze and tasty for eating and the same leaf color and shape.

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    1. I don't know that I have ever tried scuppernongs. I wonder if I could find a place for them in my garden.

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