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Publication #Cir 1440

New Plants for Florida: Grape1

Dennis Gray2

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Although a large market for grape products exists in our state, the species used to produce traditional table and wine grapes, Vitis vinifera and its hybrids, is not adapted to grow in our semitropical climate. Consequently, nearly all wines and other products consumed are imported. However, several species of bunch and muscadine grapes are native to Florida; in fact, the southeastern U.S. is the center of the greatest genetic diversity of grapes worldwide.

Floridians have capitalized on these native species and FAES breeders have developed improved varieties from them. These improved bunch and muscadine grapes are used today for jellies, jams and wines, and, although they occupy only a fraction of the existing market, they produce millions of dollars in revenue. Florida grape varieties have some significant advantages compared to the common table wine grape varieties. They are resistant to many diseases, principally Pierce's disease (PD), a disease that devastates V. vinifera. Soon molecular genetic research will produce further improved varieties and possibly enable traditional wine grape production in our state.

Bunch and muscadine grapes differ substantially. Bunch grape has 38 chromosomes and produces fruit that is harvested on clusters of 30 to 100 berries. Muscadine grape has 40 chromosomes and produces fruit on small clusters of 2 to 10 berries; typically, berries are harvested singly. The two grapes are difficult to hybridize because of the chromosome differences, so there are very few bunch/muscadine hybrids; the best-known such hybrid is the FAES variety Southern Home. Modern muscadine varieties tend to be more disease resistant than bunch grape varieties, and their fruit has a distinct, fruity flavor. Bunch grape, on the other hand, is more difficult to grow because of disease problems, but produces wine that corresponds more closely to conventional standards. Thus, there are distinct market niches for both types of grape. Bunch grape varieties with conventional wine quality would probably stimulate the largest acreage increases if disease-resistant varieties could be developed.

Until the 1980s, nearly all research effort was focused on development of disease-resistant bunch grape varieties. The varieties were developed through hybridization of local grape species with the table wine grape, Vitis vinifera. The common trait of the resulting hybrids is that they are resistant to PD. Collectively, the PD-resistant varieties are considered a distinct race (termed “Florida Hybrid Bunch Grape”) because of their combination of quality and PD resistance. In the late 1970s, muscadine breeding began to be emphasized. Developments of biotechnological procedures to facilitate genetic improvement of grape began at the Leesburg site in 1984 and continue at Apopka, Florida. The program has been responsible for a number of pivotal technological advances for grape and has been awarded two U.S. patents for work in genetic transformation.

For more information on grape varieties, see the following EDIS publications:

HS-16A The Muscadine Grape

HS-17A The Bunch Grape

Cir 1221 Deciduous Fruit for Central Florida

Cir 611 Deciduous Fruit for North Florida

HS 23 Dooryard Fruit Varieties


Table 1. 

Florida grape varieties produced at FAES.

Hybrid Bunch Grape Variety

Date of Release

Lake Emerald


Blue Lake








Tampa rootstock


Conquistador, Suwannee, Daytona


Orlando Seedless


Blanc du Bois


Florilush rootstock


Muscadine Grape Varieties

Date of Release

Dixie (with NC State Univ.)






Southern Home*, Florida Fry


*Southern Home is a hybrid between bunch and muscadine grape, but it resembles muscadine.



This document is part of Circular 1440, a publication of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, and produced by the Agronomy Department and IFAS Communication Services, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date August 2003. Reviewed January 2012. Originally published as a booklet by IFAS Communication Services June 2003. Visit the EDIS Web Site at


Dennis Gray, Professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, Mid-Florida REC--Apopka, FL. Circular 1440 is edited by Richard L. Jones, Mary L. Duryea, and Berry J. Treat, Florida Agricultural Experiment Station. Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Richard L. Jones, Dean for Research, publishes this information to further programs and related activities, available to all persons regardless of race, color, age, sex, disability or national origin. Information about alternate formats is available from IFAS Communication Services, University of Florida, PO Box 110810, Gainesville, FL 32611-0810.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.