Except on favored soils on the west coast our grapes may be said to be truly American. In some cases the varieties grown east of the Rocky Mountains are hybrids produced by crossing with the European species; yet, as Professor Bailey says, "the grape of Europe and of history has always led a precarious existence when introduced into our Eastern States, and it is now wholly supplanted by the ameliorated offspring of the native species."
No part of the earth is richer in native species of the grape, and their development in a comparatively brief period by seedling production, selection, and crossing has no parallel case in modern horticultural history.
At this time the dessert use of the grape in the States and Territories of the Union is not equalled in any part of Europe. Grapes are grown in private gardens in all parts, and commercial growing of the fruit has developed to such extent that good dessert grapes in baskets are now supplied to every grocery, lumber camp, and mining district from gathering time in autumn to past mid-winter. The period of grape-eating has been extended until it about equals that of the apple, pear, and orange. The work of improving the dessert quality of the grape is still going on, and some of our young people will live to enjoy the period in the near future when grapes as high in quality as the best known in Europe or Asia will become commercial over the Union. So far we have been working to secure desirable dessert varieties, while in Europe the leading effort has been in the direction of perfecting the wine grapes.
On the Pacific slope the European varieties have been grown successfully since the first Spanish settlement, and its seeds have been scattered by birds and animals until it is now common as a wild vine in the hills. At Fresno, California, in the Salt River valley of Arizona, and at other points in the arid sections, the raisin varieties reach a perfection rarely attained in their natal home on the Mediterranean hills. The commercial growing of the best raisin grapes not only requires the soil and air suited to their perfect development, but the hot, dry air needed for their drying must be continuous. In our broad domain, therefore, we not only grow the best wine and table grapes of Europe, and the best raisin grapes of the Orient, but are blessed with a new race, home developed, adapted to the wants of less equable sections east of the mountains. The native species from which the best of our northern varieties have been developed by selection and crossing is the Vitis labrusca of the Eastern States. This is known as the fox grape in the Eastern States, Canada, and south to the Gulf. Such varieties as the Concord, Worden, Moore's Early, Cottage, and indeed about all of our best northern grapes, sprang from seeds of this species.
The summer grape (Vitis œstivalis) of the South and Southwestern States has given us some good varieties for wine-making and some for dessert use. Norton's Virginia, Herbemont, Cynthiana, Hermann, and other varieties are of this class.
The river-bank wild grape of the West and Southwest (Vitis riparia) has given us such pure-flavored varieties as Elvira, Transparent, Faith, Montefiore, and others.
What are known as the Post-oak varieties are improved types of the Turkey grape of the Southwest, which is only a stocky variation of Vitis œstivalis. This has given such excellent pure-flavored Southern varieties as Carman, Beacon, and Bailey.
The Muscadine grape of the South (Vitis rotundifolia) has given such pure-flavored varieties as Eden, Flowers, James, and the Scuppernong.
It is also true that some of our desirable varieties, such as Delaware, Isabella, and Purity, are such wide departures from primitive types that it is not easy to classify them. In many cases it is known that favorite varieties are crosses with the foreign species, and it is more than probable that others will show traces of foreign parentage when grown from seed.