People have been raising grapes for at least 5000 years. Farmers still raise them for eating, and for making grape juice, jelly, wine, and even pie. Some people eat grape leaves stuffed with rice or meat. 

New York State is a major grower of grapes. What can you learn from studying this important New York State crop? Answering the questions below can be a whole lesson in ecology, the science of how different living things interact. Use the library, the Internet, or the people you know to answer as many questions as you can. It might even be fun to visit a vineyard, the official name of a farm that grows grapes.

What shape is a grape plant? Is it a tree, a vine, a shrub or an herb?

What do grape flowers look like and when can they be seen on the grape plant?

What kinds of animals injure the grape plant while it is growing?

What kinds of animals do grape growers try to keep from getting the grapes when they start to ripen?

What colors are grapes when they are ripe?

Let's see how you did. 

Grape plants are vines that must hold themselves up by climbing on something. Farmers build a fence or trellis to hold their grape vines up. You can learn how to build a grape trellis online. Wild grapes use their curly tendrils to hold onto trees or shrubs. If the grape vine gets too large, it can kill the plant it is growing on by covering it completely. This steals all the sunlight needed to make food. This is one way a sunny spot can show up in a forest, when a grape vine shades out a big tree and eventually the dead tree falls.

Grape vines flower in the summer. Take a look at this page to see a grape flower. Grape flowers are not very pretty. That means they are not showy enough to attract a lot of insects to carry their pollen. Grape flowers with anthers shed their pollen into the air and the wind carries at least a little of the pollen to nearby flowers with pistils. The flowers with pistils that get pollen can grow to become grapes with seeds inside them. 

There are a lot of different species or kinds of grapes. Some grapes have perfect flowers that have both anthers and pistils. Some have imperfect flowers that have only anthers or only pistils. 

There are many kinds of insects that eat grape leaves. A lot of insects eating the leaves will keep a grape vine from being able to make very much food. Visit the Ohio State University's page to see pictures of some of the many insects that feed on grape leaves. 

Once the grapes are on the vines, there can still be problems for the gardener or farmer. Birds are probably the biggest problem. They will come and eat the grapes. Gardeners and farmers try many different things to scare birds away before they eat all the grapes. They hang pie plates or owl decoys near the vines to try to scare the birds away. Some even use loud noise makers to scare away birds.

There are many different kinds of grapes. Some are green when they are ripe. Some are red when they are ripe. Some are purple when they are ripe. Some are very sweet and some taste very sour. Different kinds are used for different things. Some wild grapes are just great for birds and other animals to use for food and hiding places but not good at all for people to eat.

Grapes have been used by people for a long time. They are part of many different stories. One famous one is The Story of the Fox and the Grapes which is one of Aesop's Fables. Tradition says that Aesop's Fables were written about 2600 years ago in Greece. What do you think is the meaning of this story?
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