The classifying of the many species of the grape-vine has, of late years, been given much attention, and the distinctive characteristics of each studied and published for pubic reading, so as to induce an interest for their more general culture. In most varieties the form and color of the leaf, the shape, color, and quality of the fruit, and the manner of inducing a successful thrift in the vinery have been the subjects of investigation and inquiry.
The production of the grape-vine for ornament, its after-culture, and the necessary care required to perfect its appearance are the principal points of acquirement; but when planted with the object of producing fruit the necessity of understanding the many peculiarities of the different varieties becomes a most prominent feature in the study. The grape being a fruit most subject to epi-curian criticism, and the many varieties being produced with more or less success as the reward of patient exertion, it needs the utmost familiarity of the grower with the many delicacies of its habit in progressive growth to meet the many comments which may be brought to bear upon its quality. To be welcomed by the public a new grape should be: First, a vigorous grower, with strong and durable foliage; Second, it must be hardy; Third, the fruit must be of high quality. There are other requirements under these general heads—the roots must be firm and capable of withstanding the attacks of insect enemies; the productive organs must be normal and cultured to their proper development with the utmost care, so that a full and satisfactory crop may be grown. The skin must be thick and tough, so that the fruit will not burst or rot while ripening, and keep well after packing for winter use.
The American wild vine is indigenous to the United States, and is found in wild profusion in sheltered situations in woods from British America to the most southern of the Southern States. The general bearing of this tendril-climber is of good height, sometimes running to the highest tree-top. Its branches are clothed with a covering of brownish soft hairs or pubescence. Its leaves are usually from four to six inches in diameter, three-lobed in some varieties, and covered on their under sides with a rusty-brown coating of a mucous consistency. Its flowers, borne on numerous racemes with short branches, appear in June, and are of a yellowish-green color. Its fruit when ripe, according to variety, is generally of a dark purple, amber colored, or greenish white, of a pleasing flavor and juicy pulp.
Of the many varieties of this species cultivated in North America the most celebrated are the Isabella and Catawba. These two varieties are specially preferred in the middle and northern parts of the United States, principally on account of the abundance and quality of their fruit and the facility with which they are propagated. As it will be unnecessary to enter into a consideration of the many varieties, we shall mention only a few that have been successfully brought under cultivation, and give collective sketches of the qualities and properties of the most hardy, as follows :