Rpt Missouri State Hort. Soc. 1880-1881 pp. 227-229
AN ESSAY ON THE NATIVE GRAPE VINES OF MISSOURI
Fred Muench

There is an extensive region in the "Far West," the center of which seems to be where Southwest Missouri, Northwest Arkansas and the Indian Territory are joined, in which is found the grandest natural grave-vine plantation perhaps on this globe, consisting of innumerable varieties of the same principal class—the Æstivalis.

Over the Eastern States various Labrusca vines are spread; in the Middle States we find Cordifolia and Riparia vines beside some of the Æstivalis.class; Texas, California and Arizona contain native vines which must be peculiarly classified—the afore mentioned region is a continuous grape-vine grove, extending hundreds of miles—of Æstivalis. vines, widely differing in their intrinsic value—from the indifferent to the possibly highest. All of them are alike in this, that they are rot and phylloxera-proof, fully adapted to the climate of the Mississippi Valley, not injured even by severe winters, and, probably, also the most reliable vines for many other parts of our country, East and West.

I was among the first who tried viticulture in Missouri; of course, I planted Catawba and Isabella vines. When, after several splendid crops, both varieties entirely failed, succumbing to the rot and mildew, I despaired not, but having learned from travelers that in Southwest Missouri there were native vines to be found in abundance which never rot and which might, by careful cultivation, be brought to a higher perfection. Thus I resolved, in October, 1851, to travel on horseback several hundreds of miles "to hunt for wild grapes." I found the wood land in the surroundings of Springfield, in Greene county, to consist chiefly of post oak and pin oak, and nearly on every one of these trees a wild vine had climbed up, extending beyond the top of the tree, and representing a blue roof formed by an abundance of the vine's mature fruit. Of all the grapes I tasted I found no two precisely alike, but only a few of them sufficiently valuable to experiment with. Yet, I brought home a bundle of cuttings and cions; also some seeds, and cultivated those wildings for several years, till I came in possession of the Cynthiana, which by far excelled my Southwest Missourians. The fault was that I had not had time to travel further west and south, and more thoroughly examine hundreds of these wild varieties. One may think himself lucky if, amongst hundreds, he finds a single one that fully answers his demands, yet such may be found.

Since that time a friend of mine, Mr. Herrnann Jaeger, settled in Newton county, in the vicinity of Neosho, Southwest Missouri, he makes it his task in October to explore the afore mentioned center, and collect what he can find, and he kindly divides his collections between himself and me; and what is the result so far? I have saved by grafting and already extensively propagated the Neosho, a vine entirely hardy, reliable, an abundant bearer, making, by proper treatment, a madeira-like wine of great excellency. At the same time I received a very feeble graft which first fruited after several years. When I tested the fruit for wine making, I was truly astonished by the delicacy of its aroma, not equalled by any wine as yet known on our whole globe. This vine, denominated by me as Far West, is also quite hardy, reliable and prolific. Cions of it I have to send to all parts of this country, to California, France, etc. By this quite unparalleled vine very likely a new era of viticulture in all the principal wine regions will be inaugurated.

My friend Jaeger is exploring and experimenting without relaxation. He has latterly given us Aestivalis IX, (I propose for it the name Newton,) a sister to the Neosho, and according to my this year's, experience, fully ranking with it, and Aestivalis XIII, not yet tested by me for wine, but expected even to excel both last mentioned varieties. He also expects soon to furnish table grapes of the Aestivalis class as luscious as can be desired.

There is no doubt but that also in Arkansas, as yet unexplored, treasures can be found. What I received from there in the last years is not good enough; men are wanting like my Missouri friend Jaeger. Probably the counties in the southwest corner of Missouri are the region from which we may expect a most important and beneficial revolution in our American viticulture. To the most valuable of our native Missouri grape-vines may and will be added the very best western seedlings of the Taylor Bullit, such as the Noah, Missouri Riesling, Amber, etc., also some few Hybrids, as the excellent Triumph, some of Mr. Campbell's seedlings, and perhaps others, while most of the Labruscas, Catawba, Isabella, Concord and their like, ought to and will be given up. At the same time we must not relax in our efforts still further to progress and improve, seizing the hand which kind and liberally spending nature is offering to the people of the far west to bring the noble calling of viticulture to the very higest degree of perfection. To have contributed some to the attainment of this praiseworthy end gives me a constant satisfaction.


The Secretary announced that two days after receiving the above he received intelligence that Mr. Muench was dead; that he had died while in his vineyard, with pruning shears in hand, thus fitly closing a career which had done more to advance the interests of viticulture in Missouri than had been done by any other man—a career which had earned for Mr. Muench the title of "The Nestor of Western Grape Culture."


Rural Carolinian 4(3): 136 (1872)

A Curious Statement.—The expedition to the Rocky Mountains found on the borders of the Arkansas and near the eastern side of the Great Desert, hundreds of acres of the same kind of vine (vitis vinifera) which produces the wines of Europe. These vines were growing in a wild state and were surrounded with hillocks of sand, rising to within from twelve to eighteen inches of the ends of the branches. They were loaded with the most delicious grapes, and the clusters were so closely arranged as to conceal every part of the stem. These hillocks of sand are produced by the agency of the vines, arresting the sand, as it is borne along by the wind.

We find this singular statement in the Horticultural Register for August, 1836. Does any one know of any confirmation or explanation of these alleged facts by later explorers?


Genesee Farmer 2(33): 260 (Aug 18, 1832)

GRAPES
A CULTIVATOR OF THE VINE.

Last winter, a writer in the American Farmer copied an extract from the Journal of Major Long's Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, descriptive of a native grape: "Many of these were so loaded with fruit as to present nothing to the eye but a series of clusters so closely arranged as to conceal every part of the stem. The fruit of these vines is incomparably finer than that of any other native or exotic which we have met with in the United States."

Col. Robert Carr (Bartram's Botanic Garden) had announced in the New England Farmer that he had a number of the plants growing from seeds brought by Dr. Say, who was in that expedition; and the writer wished to know if those vines had borne fruit? and if so, the quality?

The only answer to this inquiry was from a correspondent in Maryland. He says: "If I am not mistaken the same grape is cultivated in the vineyard of Mr. Adam Linsay, an intelligent and respectable gentleman in Washington City, (D. C.) who has made many valuable experiments in the culture of the vine in this country, and with great success. The vine growing in Mr. Linsay's vineyard was obtained by the late Col. Cook (the distinguished member of Congress From Illinois,) from [near] the Rocky Mountains, and presented it to Mr. Linsay, who in compliment to his friend calls it the "Cook grape." In a visit I made to Mr. Linsay's vineyard in 1829, I eat of the fruit, and was so pleased with it, that I obtained of him two hundred cuttings, which I had planted, and a part of which are now very flourishing; and from appearance will produce fruit this year. The grape is very delicious and far superior in flavor to any native grape I ever tasted, except one that grows upon my estate here, and which I intend to send to Mr. Prince, I next autumn. The description of the "Cook grape" corresponds with [that seen in Long's Expedition] perhaps with a slight variation owing to change of climate. It is the greatest bearer I ever saw, and a very hardy vine, growing with great rapidity and luxuriance. Nothing can be handsomer than its large and delicious clusters, and I have no doubt that it will prove to be one of our most valuable native grapes. Mr. Linsay would render a great service to the public by giving his opinion of this grape. Should this be the same grape it can be, much better obtained from Mr. Linsay, who has raised his stock from the root or cutting of the vine, than from Col. Robert Carr, whose plants are from seeds,—and the seeds of grapes do not always, if ever, produce the same fruit as the vine from which they were taken."

How can we procure cuttings from Washington?

An account of "The pine-woods grape" from Flint's History and Geography of the Western States, and supposed to be of the same kind as the former, —was also copied. It is thus described: "It ripens in the month of June, is cone shaped, transparent, with four seeds, reddish purple, and is a fine fruit for eating. It has a slender, bluish purple vine that runs on the ground among the grass."

Col. J. O'Fallon in a letter to the Editor of the American Farmer, dated Missouri, Feb. 13, 1832, says, "I notice in your valuable paper of the 27th ult. just received, an extract from Col. Long's Journal, giving a description of an extraordinary grape that ripens in June, which I presume grows in Arkansas Territory; having never heard of such a grape west of this and north of said territory, except a very small grape that ripens in June, to be found in the bottoms of the Kansas, about eighty miles above its mouth, represented as very productive. Its fruit having failed the last year prevented my obtaining the seed."

Let us hope that they will be productive this year, and that seed from them may soon be obtained.


Account of an expedition from Pittsburgh to the Rocky Mountains 2: 126 (1823)
Edwin James

Our camp was on the southwest side of the river, under a low bluff, which separates the half wooded valley from the open elevated plains. The small elms along this valley were bending under the weight of innumerable grape vines, now loaded with ripe fruit, the purple clusters crowded in such profusion as almost to give a coloring to the landscape. On the opposite side of the river was a range of low sand hills, fringed with vines, rising not more than a foot or eighteen inches from the surface. On examination, we found these hillocks had been produced exclusively by the agency of the grape vines, arresting the sand as it was borne along by the wind, until such quantities had been accumulated as to bury every part of the plant except the branches. Many of these were so loaded with fruit as to present nothing to the eye but a series of clusters, so closely arranged as to conceal every part of the stem. The fruit of these vines is incomparably finer than that of any other native or exotic which we have met with in the United States. The burying of the greater part of the trunk with its larger branches produces the effect of pruning, inasmuch as it prevents the unfolding of leaves and flowers on the parts below the surface, while the protruded ends of the branches enjoy an increased degree of light and heat from the reflection of the sand. It is owing, undoubtedly, to these causes that the grapes in question are far superior to the fruit of the same vine under ordinary circumstances.

The treatment here employed by nature to bring to perfection the fruit of the vine, may be imitated, but without the same peculiarities of soil and exposure, can with difficulty be carried to the same magnificent extent. Here are hundreds of acres covered with a surface of moveable sand, and abounding in vines, placed in more favorable circumstances, by the agency of the sun and the winds, than it is in the power of man, to afford to so great an extent.