Galleria>Photostudies> The Grape Vine

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Ever wonder where your favorite grape jelly comes from? Follow the development of a Concord grape vine through the course of an entire growth season...

and keep the peanut butter handy.

Even in late fall and winter when a vine appears to be dormant, the development of new buds is going on within existing canes. The new year’s visible growth cycle begins in late February/early March with the appearance of new buds at numerous nodes on the pruned vine (they look like reddish pussy willow). All productive growth will develop from these seemingly insignificant buds. Their transformation to canes that can reach over 10 feet in length, each with several grape bunches is quite remarkable.

The content that follows is organized by various stages of growth and development throughout the season. After reading any descriptive text, click on the associated image. A new page exclusively for that presentation will appear. You may just sit back and watch the self-running slideshow, or bring up the controls, stop the slideshow and navigate at your pace. When finished, you will return to this page to continue your exploration through the photostudy.

Continue below...

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buds and bud breaks



In this early stage, the buds are protected by external bud scales and a covering of thready "wool," both of which are visible in many of the shots in this group. The structures that look like little wool-covered grape bunches are the developing flowers that will eventually become grapes.

It is only in this early stage of growth that leaves will exhibit the crimson color.

In some shots you will see objects that look like tiny cloudy or milky balls stuck to the plant. These balls of sap, sometimes referred to as "pearls," exude from various areas of new, non-woody growth and are quite normal, not be confused with rain water or dew drops which are condensed, clear water usually observed clinging to the leaf edges.

Click on the image to the right to view examples of this early development.

flower development

Developmentally, I think May is the most interesting month. The canes are growing inches per day, the foliage is rapidly growing and thickening. Those tiny delicate bud structures barely visible in early and mid-April are now fully developed and ready to fulfill their purpose.

These buds are tiny. The structures within them are really tiny, but what develops from them is quite amazing—and tasty!

In this group you will see flower bud development after those early days in April when they are nearly completely cacooned in "wool," up to the point of opening and fertilization.

Look closely and you will see that flowers buds have a cap called a calyptra, that sits closed on top of a base. When the flower opens, the cap, usually composed of five or six segments, peels away from the base due to pressure from the stalk-like anthers and the stamen of pollen within that are pushing outward. The bud may open slowly over the course of up to an hour, or in a few seconds. Sometimes the cap blows off instantaneously, but usually one segment stays attached to the base as a hinge and the cap flips opens to one side as the anthers/stamens expand outwardly, pushing it aside. There are no petals, just anthers, stamen, and the chocolate-kiss-shaped female ovum with its textured tip called a stigma that receives the pollen and fertilizes the immature seeds contained in the thicker pistil structure below.

Click on the image to go to the presentation.

Below are three videos that contains compilations of flowers opening. Action in these videos is in real time, with some edits merely to shorten periods of inactivity. Click on the video to begin. Mouse over it to bring up the controls (which means you can drag through the video at your pace to get to the highlights).

This is close-up video of activity occuring under the canopy. Lighting is tricky. Despite my best attempts to immobalize canes from wind movement, there are scenes that are jittery and fuzzy because wind moves the subject outside the focal plane or outside the depth of field (about 3/8 inch, max). Compression of the video on the server also causes some degradation of quality (color banding and loss of sharpness).

grape flowers opening, compilation 1

Includes five scenes, the second has a double-opening. Some wind jitter in the fourth, but don't blink or you will miss the explosive action in the last second of that scene.

grape flowers opening, compilation 2

Five scenes, one with a double-opening.

grape flowers opening, compilation 3

Two scenes, the long-ish second with multiple activity.

Tiny bee and hoverfly work the freshly-opened flowers. There is also slideshow gallery below offering higher quality still images of other occupants.

grape development


Once fertilized, fruit set develops quickly.

You will note that the flowers, upon opening, have a distinct shape I equate with a chocolate kiss—slender at the top, and then thickens at the bottom—but is definately not the globe-shape we expect. Once fertilized, the ovum quickly assumes the round shape of a grape. Growth is then quite rapid.

Not all flowers become fertilized (some examples are included), or at the same time, and therefore do not develop at the same rate.

The slideshow presented here covers development from post-flowerpop in mid-to-late May until season's end. The grapes started to ripen the first week of August and I have to put a net around them to keep birds and critters from going after them making late season photography difficult. I had picked the last of them and pruned back the vine for the winter just a couple days before Hurricane Sandy hit. Ready for next year.

Click on the image to go to the presentation.

denizens of the vine


Click on the image to the right to delight in a gallery showcasing the variety of life that inhabits the vine during its season.

The second through fifth images are of blue flies that seemed to appear out of nowhere in a group that just hovered near the vine, moving as a group to new locations in unison and then hovering again.