Menispermum canadense (Canada Moonseed)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Menispermaceae (Moonseed)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; moist woods, woodland edges, clearings, thickets
Bloom season:May - July
Plant height:6 to 30 foot vine
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: FAC NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: 6-petals Flower shape: 7+petals Flower shape: indistinct Cluster type: panicle

[photo of male flowers] Branching clusters up to 7 inches long arising from the leaf axils, with male and female flowers in separate clusters on the same or different plants. Flowers of both are less than ¼ inch across, somewhat bell-shaped with 4 to 9 greenish-white petals and 4 to 9 greenish-white sepals that are longer than the petals. Male flowers have a spray of 12 to 24 white stamens with yellow tips.

[photo of female flowers] Female flowers have 2 to 4 stout pistils with a somewhat ruffled stigma at their tips, and usually surrounded by several short, sterile stamens. Flower stalks are green and hairless to sparsely hairy with an oblong leaf-like bract at the base.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: lobed Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are alternate, 3 to 8 inches long and about as wide, mostly heart-shaped at the base, with 7 to 12 primary veins radiating from the base. Leaf edges are toothless and have 3 to 7 shallow lobes, the lobe tips rounded to bluntly pointed. The upper surface is medium to dark green, hairless or becoming hairless with age, the lower surface paler and finely hairy, especially along the veins.

[photo of leaf stalk attachment] Leaf stalks are up to 8 inches long and attached on the underside near but not at the base of the leaf (peltate). New stem growth is green and hairy turning reddish or purplish, woody and eventually hairless. Stems lack tendrils and twine around other vegetation for support or sprawl along the ground, and form loose colonies from spreading rhizomes.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe

[photo of ripening fruit] Fruit is a berry-like drupe about 1/3 inch diameter, ripening to blue-black with a white bloom, and very much resembling wild grape. Inside is a single, flat, crescent-shaped seed.


Canada Moonseed leaves are rather variable in size and shape. The more deeply lobed leaves may resemble Wild Cucumber (Echinocystis lobata) or Wild Grape (Vitis riparia), while the less lobed leaves may resemble Bur Cucumber (Sicyos angulatus), or Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa). Of these species, only Grape and Moonseed have woody stems. The unique leaf stalk attachment (peltate) and the single, crescent-shaped seed in the mature fruit further distinguishes Canada Moonseed from all the rest. The fruits are reportedly toxic and should not be eaten.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken in Ramsey and Washington counties. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka and Ramsey counties.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Calvin C U - Winona
on: 2017-06-07 21:35:35

Found this vine in my garden growing with my clematis. Thought it was wild cuke, but after looking at your website, concluded it is moonseed. Hasn't flowered or seeded yet, but I will watch and see.

Posted by: Claire - Sunrise River, Chisago County
on: 2018-01-12 13:50:11

I believe this is plentiful as the Sunrise river nears the St. Croix (wooded banks, soil stays coolish). It hitches a ride up other vines if it can, but doesn't seem overly aggressive. I'll try to spot the flowering this spring.

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