When there is a sweet floral scent in the air in early March, I know the wisteria is blooming. All I have to do is drive my car with the windows down to find a patch of this sweetly scented flowering vine. I’m led by my nose to look around for the soft purple of its blooms.
In the South, this vine is omnipresent – in the forest, in neighborhoods, in rights-of-way, and even along highways. That is both the joy of and the pitfall of Chinese wisteria.
An arbor covered in the dangling purple blooms of wisteria in front of an antebellum home just seems so perfect. It makes me think of days spent sitting on the front porch sipping sweet tea and enjoying the company of friends and family.
It’s funny that a nonnative vine makes me think of being in the South. Growing up, I saw wisteria everywhere. When it blooms, it is hard to miss. You’ll see pale purple flowers just about everywhere you look — and you’ll certainly smell them.
Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) is quite the go-getter. It will climb up walls, trees, fences, light poles, and pretty much anything that gives it access to sun and an advantage around all of the plants around it.
Wisteria sinensis was brought to the U.S. in the 1800’s from China as an ornamental. It has a very fast growth rate and will require frequent pruning. It will produce roots in locations where the nodes touch soil and send out new growth wherever possible. It will even sprout where trimmed.
Due to its rapid growth rate and its ability to climb up just about anything, Chinese wisteria will shade out other plants and even girdle trees – resulting in their death. It takes advantage of openings caused by fallen trees or timber harvests, growing quickly into the gap. By doing so, it may alter plant successional pathways by shading out the plants below it.
Japanese wisteria as it climbs will twine clockwise around what it is growing on, whereas Chinese wisteria will twine counter-clockwise. How crazy is that?