Lianas, stout, scrambling or sprawling over low vegetation or small trees. Branches usually glabrous; branchlets succulent when young, becoming woody, sometimes rooting at nodes; growing tips usually glabrous; tendrils unbranched. Leaves usually 3-foliolate, sometimes simple; petiole usually shorter than blade; blade succulent, broadly ovate to ovate-reniform, 2–8 × 2–7 cm, if simple usually 3-lobed, rarely unlobed, margins coarsely and irregularly toothed, surfaces glabrous; leaflets (compound leaves) ovate to oblong. Flowers greenish, greenish yellow, whitish, or purplish. Berries black to blue-black, 6–12 mm diam.
Phenology: Flowering late Apr–Jun; fruiting Aug–Sep.
Habitat: Rocky wooded hillsides, stream banks, prairie ravines, glades, bluffs, chaparral, coastal hammocks and dunes, maritime woodlands, shell mounds in salt marshes, roadsides, waste places.
Elevation: 0–2000 m.
Ala., Ariz., Ark., Fla., Ga., Kans., La., Miss., Mo., N.Mex., Okla., Tex., Mexico, West Indies, Central America, n South America.
Many previous authors treated Cissus incisa and C. trifoliata as distinct species, but the characters used to separate them (size of leaflets, branching patterns of cymes, and berry shape) appear to intergrade abundantly, particularly in Florida, where their geographical ranges overlap. It appears that much of the basis for separating these two species is geographical distribution and habitat, with C. trifoliata being chiefly coastal and tropical and C. incisa being chiefly subtropical and temperate continental. Some authors (for example, R. P. Wunderlin 1982; R. K. Godfrey 1988; J. A. Lombardi 2000) therefore have treated C. incisa as a synonym of C. trifoliata, a conclusion that is followed here.