Perennial woody vine to 10.67 m long Stem: high-climbing, reddish brown and hairy when young, becoming brown and shredding in papery strips, inner spongy part of stem (pith) chambered (1 mm or thicker) at nodes. Leaves: alternate, stalked, 5 - 20 cm long, yellowish green, underside bluish green to silvery, egg-shaped to nearly rounded with a pointed tip and heart-shaped base, shallowly toothed, shallowly to deeply three to five lobed, both surfaces covered with cobwebby rusty hairs when young, becoming hairless or nearly so at maturity. Inflorescence: functionally either male or female and borne on separate plants (sub-dioecious), borne opposite a leaf on the current year's growth (at no more than two successive nodes), 5 - 15 cm long, slender, loose, cylindrical. Flowers: numerous, yellowish green, tiny, five-petaled, fragrant. Male flowers have five long, erect stamens and a poorly developed pistil. Female flowers have a well-developed pistil and five short, reflexed, functionless stamens. Fruit: a juicy berry borne in hanging clusters, dark purple to black, 5 - 10 mm long, egg-shaped to spherical, covered with a light whitish coating (glaucous), containing two to four seeds. The seeds are reddish brown, about 6 mm long, and pear-shaped. Tendrils: opposite the leaves, at no more than two successive nodes.
Similar species: Vitis aestivalis has a lower leaf surface with a whitish waxy coating, and both leaf surfaces retain more hairs at maturity.
Flowering: early to mid June
Habitat and ecology: Locally frequent in sandy soils and shaded dune slopes.
Occurence in the Chicago region: native
Notes: Birds and mammals eat the fruit of this species, while deer feed on the leaves. Catbirds and cardinals use strips of the bark to build their nests. The vines are commonly used in wreath-making.
Etymology: Vitis is the Latin word for vine. Aestivalis means "of the summer." Bicolor means "of two colors," referring to the difference in color between the upper and lower leaf surfaces.