Moonseed: Another September Fruiting Vine

Three years ago I wrote about watching the fruit develop on five different kinds of climbing vines in Eliza Howell Park. Since then I have added to the number of perennial fruiting vines that I check during my September walks. There are now eight, some more easily located than others.

Though the berries do not all ripen at the same time, September is a good time for taking pictures to show and compare the different fruit.

From top left clockwise: Oriental Bittersweet, Winter Creeper, Grape, and Virginia Creeper. Three of these — Grape, Bittersweet, and Virginia Creeper — were included in the post about “Five Climbing Vines” in September, 2018, and Winter Creeper was featured a few months later.

From top left clockwise: Greenbrier, Moonseed, Porcelain Berry, and Poison Ivy. I have written about Poison Ivy and Porcelain Berry before, but Greenbrier is a vine that I have been watching in the park for only a couple years now. And Moonseed is the latest addition to my vine stops on September walks.

Moonseed is a vine native to eastern North America that climbs 10 to 20 feet up trees, climbing by twining around small trunks/stems/limbs.

The fruit looks a lot like wild grape (compare above in the collages) and the leaves are somewhat similar, but it is possible to tell the difference clearly by looking at details.

One big reason for learning to recognize Moonseed is that the berries are poisonous. This is a fruit that is not for eating.

If the appearance doesn’t quickly identify Moonseed, note the climbing method (it twines around a limb as shown above). Grape vines climb by the use of tendrils that grab or hook onto the limb they climb on.

Moonseed is named for the shape of the seed. The one seed per berry is crescent shaped. This is very different from grapes and other similar looking fruit.

The Eliza Howell Moonseed vines that I am familiar with are near the riverbank. The plant is not considere rare in Michigan, but, for a climbing vine, it can be quite inconspicuous. Of course, as often seems to happen, an observer begins to see more and more of them once they are known.

I have come to recognize them by the leaves.

As I often experience, there is something more to learn every day. Since I started planning this post. I have been studying another climbing vine, one with ripening seeds that don’t look like berries — Climbing Buckwheat.

I may want to discuss the Climbing Buckwheat vine at another time. For now, thogh, it is enough to introduce Moonseed to those who have never met it.

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