Summary of California wild grape and its traditional use

Kumeyaay name: unknown

California Wild Grape (Vitis californica)


California wild grape is a species of wild grape that grows throughout central and northern California, and occasionally in southern California. It is a deciduous vine, which can grow to over 30 feet in length. In the fall, the leaves turn many shades of orange and yellow, and bunches of small and often sour but edible purple grapes hang from the vines. The California wild grape grows along streams and rivers and thrives in damp areas; however, like most other native California plants it can withstand periods of dry conditions. The grapes provide an important food source for a variety of wild animals, especially birds, and the foliage provides thick cover. Bees love the flowers, and it is one of the best plants for butterflies in fall.


The fruit of the wild grape is eaten fresh but also was traditionally gathered and dried like raisins. Stored and dried, wild grapes are an important food source throughout the year as they are boiled for cooking in various dishes. In the spring, when the sap is running, the stem of the wild grape is cut and the sap is collect in a jug and kept in a cool place so it will not sour. This sap is rubbed on falling or thin hair to keep it healthy and make it grow. Some say it darkens the hair as well.