Canadian Moonseed, Menispermum canadense

Menispermum canadense, commonly known as Canadian Moonseed, is a flowering plant species from the family Menispermaceae. All parts of this plant are known to be poisonous.

M. canadense is a woody climbing vine that can grow as long as 20 feet. The leaves are about 2 to 8 inches in diameter with 3 to 7 shallow lobes. Its fruit is produced in clusters of black berries. Each berry measures .4 to .6 inches in diameter. The actual seed inside the berry shows resemblance to a crescent moon. This is where it has gotten it’s common name of “moonseed”. The fruit is ripe in September and October, during the same time period that wild grapes ripen.

Both the leaves and the fruit can be mistaken for the Fox Grape. This confusion can be extremely dangerous, as moonseed fruit is poisonous, unlike the edible Fox Grape fruit. Every part of this plant is poisonous, with the principal toxin being alkaloid dauricine. Ingesting the moonseed fruit can be fatal, and when eating wild fruit, travelers are warned to note the shape of the seed and the “rank” taste of the aforementioned fruit.

M. canadense is native to eastern North America, from south Canada to northern Florida. It can also be found from the Atlantic coast west to Manitoba and Texas. It thrives in thickets, stream banks, and moist woods.

Image Caption: Canadian Moonseed  (Menispermum canadense). Credit: Jaume Saint-Hilaire, Jean Henri/Wikipedia (public domain)