World Plants Logo

search the world

Woody > Cocculus > Cocculus carolinus > Cocculus carolinus

Cocculus carolinus

Carolina moonseed

Origin:  It is native to Mexico and the southeastern United States of America. It is commonly found growing in Georgia, Arkansas, Texas, and Georgia.
            Mike's Opinion

this is Mike


Cocculus carolinus, though often overlooked, can be a wonderful addition to a landscape. It can liven up a space with its attractive, deep green foliage, eye-catching berries and it will attract songbirds. It grows very quickly so it may be considered high maintenance but if you do not mind keeping up with pruning it can really bring a jungle-like look to plain, boring suburban landscapes. It can grow endlessly up a trellis, through hedges and fences to add some life to the area. Cocculus carolinus is truly a gorgeous vine that will bring in a lot of attention. - Sydney Figg

Michael Pascoe, NDP., ODH., CLT., MSc. (Plant Conservation)


USDA Hardiness Zone
6 - 9
Canadian Hardiness Zone
5 - 8
RHS Hardiness Zone
Temperature (°C)
-10 - 20
Temperature (°F)
15 - 68
3 – 4 m
1 m
Description and Growing Information
Flowering Period
General Description
Cocculus carolinus is an attractive deciduous vine with beautiful green, almost heart-shaped foliage. It grows quickly and makes a fantastic accent plant in a landscape. They are either male or female. The females produce tiny greenish-white flowers in the summer sun which will turn into small, eye-catching, bright red berries in the autumn months. It is a deciduous vine, so it will suffer from considerable dieback in the winter months but can thrive year-round in the right temperature.
This wonderful plant grows quickly up trellises, along fences, intertwined with hedges and up large plants. It can climb and cover sides of buildings and is sure to add a beautiful pop of colour to any landscape. Carolina moonseed is very attractive as an accent plant in a landscape. The fruit are also known to attract songbirds that like to feed off the plant’s seeds and berries.
It grows best in full sun with about 6 hours of direct sunlight daily but will also grow nicely in partial shade. The plant likes moist soil and is somewhat drought tolerant. It thrives in acid, neutral and basic alkaline soil. Cocculus carolinus is not very hardy so it is more than likely to experience a significant amount of dieback in the winter months when it is planted in colder climates.
Since this plant is a vine, the shape of it is really determined by what it is growing amongst. They will intertwine and grow up trellises, they can grow up and along buildings, they can wrap around the trunks of trees and much more.
ID Characteristic
This vine can be easily identified by its berries and seeds. The berries are showy and a beautiful bright red colour but taste foul. The seeds are small and shaped like crescent moons, a common factor in the moonseed family. Another identifying factor is the shape of the plant’s leaves. They are usually heart shaped or three lobed and resemble an elephant’s head.
Carolina moonseed is not known to suffer from any pests or serious diseases.
It thrives in moist, well-draining soils in full sun to partial shade. However, this plant is tolerant of a diverse range of soils and growing conditions. In the wild, it is commonly found growing throughout deep woods and thickets.
Bark/Stem Description
The vine is semi-woody, with a very slender stem. In the plant’s younger years, the stem is green and slim but as the plant matures it will start to toughen up and turn brown.
Leaf Description
The leaves are leathery, shiny, thick, deep green in colour and show visible darker green veins that give them a little bit of texture. They are usually about 7 cm in size however, under the right conditions they will grow to be about 10 cm. The shape of them are predominately heart and ovate but may also be more three lobed. They grow in panicles, with the male plants tending to grow a little longer while the female plants grow in much shorter clusters. The foliage is attached to the vine by long, slim, green petioles.
Flower Description
The flowers are small, insignificant, blooming from June until August. They are a very light green or greenish white and grow in small clusters. They do not smell or add anything to the plant’s landscape value.
Fruit Description
The fruit are attractive, eye-catching bright red berries that are present from August to November. They grow in tight clusters and each berry contains a crescent shaped seed, which is where the name moonseed comes from. The berries are juicy, but they do not taste good and may cause gastric distress when consumed by humans. However, they are considered not toxic. The berries are known to attract songbirds that like to eat the seeds. The plant likely will not produce fruit in its early years.
Colour Description
Healthy leaves on the Carolina moonseed are a beautiful, deep green colour. The plant’s berries are red, and the stem is green but the colour will deepen and turn brown as the plant matures.
Texture Description
Cocculus carolinus produces glossy, leathery leaves with visible veins. The underside is quite dull with a slight fuzz.
Propagation can be easily done by seed in the springtime or by stem cuttings. If planting by seed, the seeds should be planted after the last expected frost. Carolina moonseed is more often found involuntarily planted in the wild, after the seed has been eaten and excreted by birds and other wildlife.
Ethnobotanical Uses (Disclaimer)
The roots are used to help in treating arthritis. The stem is used in treating asthma, bronchitis, and as a paralysis medication. The plant also contains cocculolidine which is a natural insecticide.
Dirr, M. A. (2010). Manual of woody landscape plants: Their identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation and uses. Stipes. Cocculus Carolinus. Cocculus Carolinus - Plant Finder. (n.d.). Retrieved November 12, 2021, from onid=282713.