Vitis aestivalis 'Norton'
Common Name: summer grape
Type: Fruit
Family: Vitaceae
Zone: 5 to 7
Height: 15.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 15.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: Greenish
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: High
Flower: Fragrant, Insignificant
Attracts: Birds
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Tolerate: Rabbit, Deer

Culture

Best grown in deep, loamy, consistently moist, well-drained soils in full sun. In part shade, plants will produce flowers but will probably not produce fruit. Plants are intolerant of shade. Tolerates a wide range of soil conditions, including average garden soils, but must have good drainage. Best sited in a location sheltered from winter winds (preferably a southern facing slope) and well removed from frost pockets. Self-pollinating. Grapes need a support system, training, regular spraying and regular pruning to maximize fruit production. For more detailed information on grape culture for the State of Missouri, see University of Missouri Extension publications on Home Fruit Production: Grape Culture (G6085) and Home Fruit Production: Grape Training Systems (G6090).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Vitis aestivalis, commonly called summer grape, is a North American grape vine that is native from Maine to Ontario south to Texas and Florida. In Missouri, it is typically found in dry rocky and upland woods, thickets, glades, rocky slopes and escarpments primarily in the central and southern parts of the State (Steyermark). It is a woody, climbing, deciduous vine that climbs by tendrils to 35' tall or sprawls over low growing shrubs. Trunks of mature vines will grow over time to as much as 6" across with reddish-brown bark peeling in strips. Cylindrical panicles of fragrant, yellowish-green flowers in late spring (May-June) are followed by drooping clusters (3-8" long) of medium-sized, blue-black grapes (each from .2 to .5" diameter) that ripen in late mid-season (September to October in St. Louis). Flowers are attractive to bees. Ripe fruit often varies considerably in quality from dry and tart to juicy and sweet. Ripe fruit is attractive to birds, mammals and some hornets and wasps. Large green leaves (2-8" long) with toothed margins vary in shape from having only shallow lobes to being deeply 3-5 lobed with rounded sinuses. Additional common names for this species are bunch grape and pidgeon grape.

Genus name is the Latin name for the old world vineyard grape (Vitis vinifera).

Specific epithet means pertaining to summer.

‘Norton’ (synonymous with 'Cynthiana') was first cultivated in the 1830s. It is an V. aestivalis American grape variety which is reportedly the oldest American grape variety that is commercially grown today. This is a wine grape that grows well in the Midwest and mid-eastern states, and is particularly prized by Missouri vineyards. It makes a robust dry red wine. This is a woody, deciduous, tendril-climbing vine. Panicles of fragrant, greenish flowers in spring are followed by clusters of medium-sized, blue-black grapes that ripen in late mid-season (September in St. Louis). Large, shallowly-three-lobed, green foliage. Flowers are attractive to bees. Ripe fruit is attractive to some hornets and wasps. Norton/Cynthiana was first discovered near Richmond, Virginia in 1835. In its early years, it was cultivated in Virginia by Dr. Daniel Norton, hence the cultivar name. Norton/Cynthiana was adopted as the Missouri State Grape on July 11, 2003.

Problems

Grapes are high maintenance plants that require regular chemical spraying and pruning. Grapes are susceptible to a large number of diseases, particularly in humid summer climates such as Missouri, including anthracnose, black rot, downy and powdery mildew, crown gall and botrytis bunch rot. Insect pests include phylloxera, grape berry moth, Japanese beetle, leaf hopper, leaf roller, mealy bugs and flea beetles.

Garden Uses

Grapes are primarily grown for fruit production in home fruit gardens where ornamental value is not a concern. However, grapes do in fact have good ornamental value: bold summer foliage, some fall color, showy fruit and shaggy, twisted trunking and branching often best seen in winter. When grown on fences, walls, trellises, arbors or other structures, grapes can be quite attractive year-round and can provide good cover, screening, or shade to areas around the home.