Is this Vitis Californica?

A wild vine growing in Los Angeles.

A wild vine growing in Los Angeles.

A few days ago, I took my kids for a walk to the top of Mt. Washington (in Los Angeles). They needed to get out of the house and burn some energy. At the top of the hill is an LADWP facility comprised of water tanks, microwave relays and a weather station. Along one fence enclosing the facility, we saw what appears to be a native grape vine laden with yet unripened fruit.

I see this type of vine growing all around – along the freeways and in parks.

I have never, however, seen it covered in fruit clusters. The bunches are not yet at closure but the berries contain one large seed (about two to three times the size of what you might find inside a v. vinifera berry.

Is this Vitis Californica? Is it the Mission grape? Is it even vinifera?

Any feedback would be helpful as I hope to harvest and make wine from these grapes.



Father, husband, physician, amateur guitarist, wine lover, wine writer, wine grower and wine maker trying to do it all within eye shot of downtown Los Angeles.
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One Response to Is this Vitis Californica?

  1. hope this helps says:

    California has 2 native grape species. So-Calif is part of the “Vitis girdiania” habitat. Vitis californica is found farther north. So unless it’s a seed from a freak migrating bird, or a deliberate planting, a wild vine around Los Angeles is going to Vitis girdiana.

    BTW…in both wild species, like pretty much all other wild grapes (including the original wild Vitis vinfera), the vines are of 2 sexes — male vines that produce only pollen, and fruiting females. The females WILL NOT FRUIT without a pollinator vine. So beware, if you try to grow them, that you need both sexes. Most domestic grapes are self pollinating hermaphrodites due to a freak mutation in ancient times, so we’re not used to thinking in terms of pollination of grapes. So a lot of gardenners who plant a wild vine are perplexed as to why they get no fruit. It’s either b/c your vine is male, or, it’s a female and you have no pollinator close by.

    (BTW domestic vines can pollinate wild females… the popular ornamental “Roger’s Red” is a vinifera/californica cross).

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