History

Photo/All Buyers and Sellers Realty of Florida
Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon gave Florida its name in recognition of its beautiful fruits and flowers. Among the rich vegetation, early settlers discovered native muscadine grapevines on Florida's east coast. Around 1562 near present-day St. Augustine, French Huguenot settlers harvested the wild grapes and applied the traditions of their homeland to make the first known wines of the New World. Through the centuries, Florida's rich soils and rolling hills have supported both vineyards and winemaking (FDACS, 2004).

The native muscadine grape also plays an important role in the ethnobotanical history of Florida. Ethnobotany is the study of the interaction between people, plants and culture. According to Allen, Bond and Main (2002), the muscadine grape provided a source of fruit for Native Americans. Native Americans used the long stems of the muscadine vine to make deer snares. They also ate the fruit and traded muscadines with pioneers. Much of the information on native plant species and how they were used has been lost or destroyed. Paleoethnobotanists study the use of plants by humans based on archaeological information and have restored some of that lost information.

For Florida's current population, dependence on gathering native plants for food has been replaced by commercial agriculture. The muscadine grape (Vitis rotundifolia) is an example of a native plant that has been developed into a significant commercial crop. Relatives of the native muscadine are now used to make wine and jams. Today, the rapid loss of natural habitats by human encroachment and by invasive exotic plants threatens many of Florida's native plant communities (Allen, Bond and Main, 2002).

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