Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 82.djvu/342

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338
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE DOMESTICATION OF AMERICAN GRAPES
By Professor U. P. HEDRICK

AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION, GENEVA, N. Y.

THERE are about forty species of grapes in the world, more than half of which are found in North America. Few other plants on this continent grow wild under such varied conditions and over such extended areas. Thus, wild grapes are found in the warmer parts of New Brunswick; on the shores of the Great Lakes; everywhere in the rich woodlands and thickets of the North and Middle Atlantic States; on the limestone soils in the mountainous parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and the Virginias; and they thrive in the sandy woods, sea plains and reef-keys of the South Atlantic and Gulf States, where a single vine of the Scuppernong often clambers over trees and shrubs for a hundred feet or more. While not so common west of the Mississippi, yet some kind of wild grape is found from North Dakota to Texas; grapes grow on the mountains and in the canyons of all the Rocky Mountain States; and several species thrive on the Mexican borders and in the far southwest, where they furnished the early Spanish padres with grapes for wine and suggested the planting of the first vineyards in America.

While it is possible that all of the native grapes have descended from an original species, the types are now as diverse as the regions they inhabit. The wild grapes of the forests have long slender trunks and branches whereby their leaves are better exposed to the sunlight. Two shrubby species do not attain a greater height than four or five feet; these grow in sandy soils, or among the rocks well exposed to sun and air. Another runs on the ground and bears foliage almost evergreen. The stem of one species attains a diameter of nearly a foot, bearing its foliage in a great canopy; from this giant form the species vary to sorts with slender, graceful, almost delicate, climbing vines. Wild grapes are quite as varied in climatic adaptations as in structure of vine, and grow luxuriantly and bear fruit in almost every condition of heat or cold, wet or dry, capable of supporting fruit-culture in America. So many of the kinds have horticultural possibilities that it seems certain that some of them can be domesticated in all of the agricultural regions of the country, their natural plasticity indicating, even if it were not known from experience, that all can be domesticated.

Leif the Lucky, the first European to visit America, if the Icelandic records be true, christened the new land Wineland after its grapes. Captain John Hawkins, who visited the Spanish settlements in Florida in 1565, mentions the wild grapes among the resources of the New World, with the statement that the Spaniards "had made twenty hogs-