Grapes or Virginia Creepers – How to Tell the Difference

Do you have grapes or virginia creepers? Here’s some helpful tips for you to tell the difference.

grapes or virginia creepers infographic

Spot the Difference – Grapes or Virginia Creepers

According to the USDA Plant Data Center, Virginia Creeper berries and leaves are highly toxic to humans. You DO NOT want to mistake them for grapes.

Speaking of dangerous look alikes – if you’re out in the wild and stumble across what looks like “wild grapes” you’ll also want to study Canada Moonseed another grape look alike that grows in the wild.

Virginia Creepers

Sometimes called Woodbind, woodbine, false grapes, five leaves, American Ivy, five leaved Ivy, thicket creeper.

Virginia creeper is a fast-growing, perennial, woody vine that is often used as a decorative ground or wall covering.

virginia creeper plant
Notice the 5 leaflets and berries spread wide apart.

The leaves are compound, containing five leaflets. Leaflets range in size from 2-6 inches and have toothed margins. Leaves start out red, turn green and remain green until fall when they turn red to dark red/purple.

The berries turn dark blue to deep purple on redish stems that are quite widespread. They do not form tight clusters like grapes, but form several little branches.

Grapes

Grapes vary in color from light, green to redish purple to deep dark blue that grow in tight, elongated clusters.

grape leaf with grapes
Notice the full, single leaf and the elongated bunch of grapes.

Grapes are woody, deciduous vines that can reach up to 50 feet (15 m.) in length, although to maximize grape production, pruning is recommended. The older stems have bark that is gray/brown and looks a little shredded.
grape plant
Enjoy your grapes and leave the Virginia Creeper berries for the birds!

Prairie Grape Varieties

We recently joined my sister and her family for the annual grape harvest on their farm in southern Manitoba.  Together with other friends and family we help pick about half an acre of grapes – that’s about 700-800 grape plants (vines).  For us Manitobans, that’s pretty impressive! Here’s a look at some of the varieties my brother-in-law and his brother grow.

prairie grape varieties

Growing these tender varieties (clockwise from top left Ontario green, Valiant, Himrod, Kay Grape and Red Candice) in Manitoba takes a lot of know-how and a lot of tender loving care.  Luckily, there are some hardier varieties that are relatively easily to grow: Valiant, Beta or Morden varieties.  They’re dark bluish/purple, like below:

grapes in bowl

 

These beauties are usually ready for picking throughout September and early October. Click here for How and When to Harvest Grapes.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy picking some prairie grapes and have confidence to know the difference between grapes or Virginia creepers.

Enjoy your grapes and leave the Virginia Creeper berries for the birds!

Sign up to get articles by Getty delivered to your inbox. You’ll get recipes, practical tips and great food information like this. Getty is a Professional Home Economist,  speaker and writer putting good food on tables and agendas.  She is the author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, a mom and veggie gardener.

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