Menispermum canadense

Species Native to Missouri
Common Name: common moonseed 
Type: Vine
Family: Menispermaceae
Native Range: Eastern North America
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 8.00 to 20.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: Greenish-white
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Fruit: Showy

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 5-8 where it is best grown in sandy, moderately fertile, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Avoid full sun in hot summer climates. Plants grow well in sun dappled conditions. Plants spread by rhizomes. Propagate by division of rhizomes or by seed. Plants are dioecious (need both male and female plants in order for females to produce seed).

Noteworthy Characteristics

Menispermum canadense, commonly called common moonseed or Canada moonseed, is a dioecious, scrambling, twining (no tendrils), woody vine featuring (a) rounded to shallowly-lobed, alternate, peltate, long-petioled leaves, (b) tangled green stems that become woody with age, (c) somewhat inconspicuous greenish-white flowers that bloom in late spring and (d) drooping clusters on female plants of grape-like fruits (poisonous to humans) which ripen to black in fall. This vine will typically grow to 8-20' long when twining its way through shrubs, lower tree branches, hedgerows or other types of vegetation. Where no support structures are available, it will spread an indefinite length along the ground forming a dense ground cover rising to 12" tall. It is native to woods, thickets, hillsides, bluffs and along streams from Quebec to Manitoba south to Nebraska, Arkansas and Georgia.

Variable leaves (3-8" wide) are broad egg-shaped to rounded but usually with 3-7 shallow lobes. Leaves are bright green above but downy pale green below. Leaves are peltate (petiole is attached very close to but not at the margin of the leaf base). Greenish-white flowers (1/6" across) bloom May-July in drooping long-stalked axillary panicles to 5-6" long. Male (staminate) flowers have 12-24 stamens and female (pistillate) flowers have 6-12 staminodes and 2-4 separate ovaries. Flowers are not overly showy, in part because the flower color blends in with the surrounding foliage. Female flowers give way to small, globular, glaucous-coated, blue-black fruits (drupes to 3/8" diameter) which droop in clusters reminiscent of wild grapes (Vitis). Each drupe has a flat single seed in the shape of a crescent moon. Fruit is poisonous to humans and should never be eaten (fruits contain alkaloids including berberine, menispine, menispermine and dauricine).

Genus name comes from the Greek words mene meaning the crescent moon and sperma meaning a seed for the shape of the seed.

Specific epithet is in reference to Canada which is part of the native range of this plant.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Typically grown as a twining vine on a support structure. May be grown along the ground as a ground cover (infrequently done for ornamental reasons) in woodland areas, cottage gardens or naturalized areas. Also helps prevent soil erosion on banks.