Fruit Facts from
California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
© Copyright 1996-2001, California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc.
Names: Muscadine, Bullace, Scuppernong, Southern Fox Grape.
Related Species: Summer grape (Vitis aestivalis),
California Grape (V.
californica), American Grape, Fox Grape (V. labrusca), River
Bank Grape (V. riparia),
Sand Grape (V. rupestris),
European Grape (V.
The muscadine grape is
native to the southeastern United States, found in the wild from
Delaware to the Gulf of Mexico and westward to Missouri, Kansas,
Oklahoma, and Texas. Many older varieties were selections from the
wild, but the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station and the U.S.
Dept. of Agriculture have introduced a number of improved varieties
that have become standard cultivars. The earliest named variety was
Scuppernong, found growing wild in northeastern North Caroline in 1810
by Dr. Calvin Jones. Scuppernong has become another name for all
muscadine grapes. Commercial production of muscadine grapes is
essentially limited to the U.S. Southeast.
Muscadines are well adapted to the warm, humid conditions of the
southeastern U.S., where the American and the European grape do not
prosper. Its lack of frost hardiness also limits it to this same
region, except for some West Coast locations. The plant may be injured
by minimum winter temperatures of 0° F, and should not be grown in
regions where temperatures frequently go below 10° F. Muscadines
can be grown in California and adjacent areas, but are not as well
adapted as other cultivated grapes. In coastal areas of the West the
lack of sufficient summer heat produces berries that tend to be small
and generally lacking in sugar. The vines also do not fare well in the
low humidity of many interior sections. On the other hand muscadines
perform satisfactorily in the warmer grape growing regions of
California, Oregon and Washington.
Muscadines are vigorous, deciduous vines growing 60-100 ft. in the
wild. Botanically, they differ in significant ways from other grapes
and are placed in a separate sub-genus, Muscadinia. In contrast to most
other grapes, muscadines have a tight, non-shedding bark, warty shoots
and unbranched tendrils.
The slightly lobed, 2-1/2 to 5 inch leaves are rounded to broadly ovate
with coarsely serrate edges and an acuminate point. Dark green above
and green tinged yellow beneath, the leaves are glossy on both sides,
becoming firm and subglabrous at maturity.
Muscadines are dioecious, with male and female flowers on different
plants. The small, greenish flowers are borne in short, dense panicles.
It appears that both wind and insects play a role in the pollination of
the female flowers. Breeding and selection have produced self-fertile
varieties with near-perfect flowers, which also serve as a pollen
sources for the female plants. For best results a perfect-flowered vine
should be within 25 ft. of female vines, or every third vine when
planted in a mixed single row. Muscadines do not readily hybridize with
other grape species.
The fruit is borne in small, loose clusters of 3-40 grapes, quite
unlike the large, tight bunches characteristic of European and American
grapes. The round, 1 to 1-1/2 inch fruits have a thick, tough skin and
contain up to 5 hard, oblong seeds. In color the fruits range from
greenish bronze through bronze, pinkish red, purple and almost black.
Sugar content varies from about 16% to 25% for the sweetest cultivars.
The wild fruits and some older cultivars have a musky quality similar
to American grapes, although not as pronounced. Modern cultivars have a
unique fruity flavor with very little muskiness. The flavor and
appearance of the dark colored muscadine fruits are remarkably similar
to the jaboticaba.
As with all grapes, muscadines need full sun with good air drainage. If
hardiness is questionable, they can be planted against a south-facing
grapes grow well on a wide range of soils but best results are obtained
from well-drained sandy loams with a pH of 5.5 to 6.5. They will not
tolerate low, wet ground. High pH can be corrected by adding sulfur and
thoroughly working it into the soil. The vines are shallow rooted with
most of their feeder roots in the top 12 in. of soil.
Regions with 30 inches of annual rainfall usually get enough rain to
sustain the plants, unless summer dry spells stretch out past 60 days.
In areas with less than that total, supplemental watering may be
required. Drip irrigation is economical and satisfactory. In regions of
dry summers, young vines may need watering during their first 2 or 4
growing seasons to help establish root systems.
Nitrogenous fertilizers or complete fertilizers high in nitrogen are
recommended. In the first year apply 1/2 lb. of 10-10-10 NPK after
planting and then 1/8 lb. of ammonium nitrate in late May and again in
early June. Spread the fertilizer in two parallel bands 12 to 14 inches
from the trunk. Repeat in the second year, doubling the amounts and
lengthening the bands to 48 inches. Thereafter, apply 2 to 4 pounds of
the complete fertilizer each March and 1/2 pound of ammonium nitrate
each June in a 6 foot long band beginning 1 foot from the tree.
Annual pruning must be severe to keep new fruiting wood coming and to
prevent vines from becoming tangled masses of unproductive wood. The
basic framework of a vine consists of the trunk, permanent arms, and
the fruiting spurs. Vines must be pruned each dormant season to
maintain this framework. Current season shoots bear the fruit, but to
be productive, these shoots must arise from buds set on last season's
growth, since shoots from older wood are generally sterile. It is
important to leave the correct amount of fruiting wood.
is basically the same for all trellis systems. Only the arrangement of
the fruiting arm is different. Two systems of training are used, the
upright or vertical and the overhead or horizontal system. In the
upright system, a 3-wire trellis is used, the lower wire being 2 ft.
from the ground and the others 2 ft. apart. On the trellis the arms may
be horizontal along the wires or fan-shaped from a low trunk. With this
system the cane is taken to the top wire and the first year or when
vigorous enough, and then topped to make it branch. The resulting
laterals are trained along the wire to make the arms.
trellis provides more bearing surface per vine. The vines form a
complete canopy about 7 ft. from the ground. The vines are trained to a
single trunk 7 ft. tall with the arms radiating from the top of the
trunk like spokes of a wheel. A mature vine will have about 8 arms.
During the dormant season each year, cut back all shoot growth of the
past summer to fruiting spurs 4 to 5 in. long. Remove shoots entirely
that are not needed for spurs of fruiting arms. On young vines leave
spurs of one year fruiting wood about 6 in. apart. As the vines get
older, they develop clusters of spurs, or spur systems. Generally,
thinning of these spurs is necessary after the fourth or fifth fruiting
year. This thinning will force new spur growth to replace older spurs.
Muscadines are commonly propagated by layering, as cuttings root with
difficulty. The layering may be done at any time, but is commonly done
in midsummer. Canes of the current season's growth are bent down and
covered with earth, the tips being left uncovered. By fall the cane
will be developed roots and is severed from the parent. Seedling plants
can also be grafted to desirable cultivars. Bench grafting is the
method commonly used. Muscadine rootstock is not suitable for American
and European grapes because of compatibility problems.
Muscadine grapes are much less bothered by diseases than American and
European grapes. They are essentially immune to phylloxera, nematodes
and Pierce's disease. In its native region several fungal diseases
afflict the plant, including bitter rot (Melanoconium fuligineum)
and powdery mildew (Uncinula
necator) which attack the fruit, angular leaf spot (Mycosphaerella angulata)
which affects the leaves and and black rot (Guignardia bidwellii)
which attacks leaves, flower clusters and fruit. In the West only
mildew is likely to be a problem. Leaf hoppers, aphids and flea beetles
are occasional insect pests. As with all grapes, birds can also be a
most cultivars the grapes in a given cluster ripen at different times
and must be individually picked. The fruit also tends to fall when
ripe. This tendency to drop can be used to harvest the ripe berries by
spreading a tarpaulin or such on the ground and giving the vine a hard
shake. Muscadine grapes start ripening mid September to late October. A
mature vine can yield 20 lbs. or more of fruit. The grapes keep well,
particularly when lightly refrigerated.
Muscadine grapes are
pleasant enough to eat out of hand despite the seeds and somewhat tough
skin of some culivars. They come into their best, however, in making
distinctive jellies, jams and juices. The grapes also make an excellent
dessert wine with a flavor reminiscent of muscat wines.
In its home range in season the grapes are a common roadside item,
where jellies, fresh juice and even wine are also often sold. If
sufficient production were available, there is no reason that muscadine
grapes elsewhere should not have as much market appeal as Concord
grapes. In the West, however, they are likely to remain a home grown
dozen different muscadine cultivars are currently available from
various sources with additional ones continuing to be developed. Some
of the better known and better quality varieties are described below.
fruit, 1-1/4 inch in diameter, skin black. Quality very good. Sugar
content 24.5%. Ripens mid to late-season. Vine very vigorous. Clusters
large. One of the best black muscadines ever developed.
fruit, up to 1-1/4 inch in diameter, skin black. Quality excellent,
comparable with Fry. Sugar content 20%. Ripens uniformly, early to
midseason. Vine very productive, disease resistant. Clusters large.
fruit, 1-1/4 inch in diameter, skin bronze. Consistently large size
throughout vine. Excellent, melting quality. Sugar content 24%.
large fruit, up to 1-3/8 inch in diameter, skin bronze. Quality very
good before fully ripe. Sugar content 21%. Ripens midseason. Vine
moderately vigorous. Production good. Susceptible to black rot.
Clusters very large.
very large, skin pink to reddish-bronze, moderately thick yet tender.
Quality good when fully ripe. Sugar content 17%. Ripens mid to
late-season. Vines moderately vigorous. Production heavy to
over-productive. Clusters large, compact.
fruit, largest of any muscadine cultivar so far introduced, skin black.
Quality good. Sugar content 16%. Ripens midseason to late. The fruit
ripens irregularly over several weeks, making it an excellent cultivar
for home use. Vine productive, disease resistant. Clusters large.
to large fruit, skin bronze, medium to thin. Flesh sweet with excellent
and distinctive flavor. Sugar content 17%. Quality excellent. Ripens
early. Vines vigorous, production good. Clusters medium.
large fruit, skin black. Excellent flavor. Sugar content 21%. Fruit
ripens earliest of all varieties. Vines very vigorous, production good.
Large clusters. One of the best of all dark fruited varieties for home
fruit, skin bronze. Skin thinnest of any large-fruited cultivar.
Quality very good. Sugar content 20%. Ripens midseason. Vine vigorous,
very productive. Disease resistant. Clusters large.
fruit, 1-1/4 inch in diameter, skin black. Excellent quality. Sugar
content 23%. Very vigorous, very productive. Disease resistant. Large
large fruit, up to 1-1/2 inch in diameter, skin bronze. Quality very
good. Sugar content 24%. Ripens early to midseason. Vine vigorous, very
productive. Disease resistant. Clusters large.
small, 1/2 in. in diameter, skin bronze. Flavor pleasing, similar to
Scuppernong. Sugar content 16 %. Vine vigorous, very productive. Hardy.
Clusters intermediate. One of the best bronze muscadines for wine
very large, skin black. One of the largest self-fertile cultivars.
Quality very good. Sugar content 19%. Ripens medium early. Vine
vigorous, productive. Disease resistance good. Clusters very large.
large, skin bronze. One of the largest of self-fertile cultivars.
Flavor excellent. Sugar content 22%. Ripens midseason. Similar to Fry
in flavor, color and size. Vine vigorous, productive.
fruit, skin light red. Similar to Cowart in size. Quality very good.
Sugar content 18-19%. Ripens in midseason. Vine vigorous, high
yielding. Clusters very large, containing 12 to 30 berries.
fruit similar in color to Redgate. Sugar content 20%. Vigorous vine.
Needs to be pollinated by another self-fertile cultivar. Tolerant to
disease. Erratic yields.
fruit, skin white, smooth, attractive. Quality excellent. Sugar content
16%. Ripens in late midseason. Excellent for wine making. Vine
vigorous, very productive. Clusters medium to large.
fruit, up to 1-1/8 inch in diameter, skin black. Quality very good.
Sugar content 20%. Ripens over a period of 4 or 5 weeks beginning in
early September. Vine vigor medium, production very good. Clusters
medium to large.
fruit, skin black. Quality good. Sugar content 18%. Ripens early to
midseason. Vine vigor medium, very productive. Disease resistance good,
except for powdery mildew. Clusters large. Excellent for making a red
fruit, skin light to dark red. Quality very good. Ripens late to
midseason, does not shatter. Uniform ripening of clusters. Clusters
very large, up to 40 berries per cluster.
fruit, skin black. Quality good, high acid taste. Ripens early to
midseason. Vine vigorous, production good. Clusters medium. Recommended
for red wine, juice and jelly.
fruit, skin yellow bronze. Quality good, similar to Scuppernong. Ripens
late midseason. Vine moderately vigorous, productive. Disease
resistance good. Clusters medium.
Research Service, Northeastern Region. Muscadine Grapes : a Fruit for
the South. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Farmers' bulletin no. 2157. 1973.
Dearing, Charles. Muscadine Grapes. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Farmers'
bulletin no. 1785. 1947
Dearing, Charles. New Muscadine Grapes. U. S. Dept. of Agriculture,
Circular no. 769. 1948.
Facciola, Stephen. Cornucopia: a Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong
Publications, 1990. pp. 393-395.
E. Barclay. Muscadine Grapes in the Home Garden. North Carolina State
University, North Caroline Cooperative Extension Service, Leaflet no.