Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Purple Invasion


The smell is intoxicating. The blooms are showy. And, like the Sirens it can lure you in and fill you with regret later. 


This is Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and as attractive as the blooms may be; beware, it is highly invasive.


It climbs up trees, shrubs and anything that will serve as a support.

Chinese Wisteria covering tree

In spring their blooms are seen draping over tree limbs infesting the roadsides all over Georgia while their sweet smell lingers in the air like a strong perfume.



Chinese Wisteria was introduced to the United States in the early 1800's for ornamental purposes. It is found extensively throughout the eastern U.S. In the South it is often seen decorating porches and gardens. It is from these landscape plantings that they have naturalized and aggressively taken over.

Wisteria prefers moist soil and is shade tolerant but ideally likes sun for its prolific violet-blue flowers which only bloom during the plants transition from a young plant to adult. Since wisteria can live as long as 100 years this transition can take many years.


As it grows it twines upward in a clockwise direction cutting into the bark of the host tree eventually girdling and killing the tree. The weight of these vines can also topple large trees.


Just look at the size of this vine! Poor tree!

 
It reproduces through seed pods and by sending out runners and roots from its stem.


These vines have the capability of changing the structure of a forest by killing trees and altering the light availability to the forest floor making them a threat to our native flora.


If you find Wisteria growing in your garden be mindful to control it or better yet remove it entirely making sure to get all the roots to prevent resprouting.


If you like this plant consider planting the native American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) instead. Other attractive options include Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), Dutchman's pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla) or Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata).

17 comments:

  1. beautiful blue all over. very nice indeed!

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  2. I thought wisteria would be easy to propogate as it is so invasive, but I haven't managed to get cuttings to root so far.

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  3. Uwielbiam, kocham to pnącze. Jest prześliczne.Pozdrawiam.*** I love, I love this vine. It is lovely. Yours.

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  4. Fabulous post about a beloved plant that is a problem...I want to grow the native but have not as yet done so...thx for the reminder!

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    1. Thanks Donna! I don't know anyone who has the native wisteria but would love to know who it does.

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  5. I had no idea wisteria could be invasive but I imagine many of the blooms that don't bother northern gardeners have it much easier in southern locations and can easily take over.

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    1. True it isn't a problem everywhere. Chinese Wisteria is on the invasive species list for the Southeast, a few Midwest and Northeastern states.

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  6. I love wisteria, but after seeing it run rampant, I have never put one in my garden. I've thought about the American kind, but haven't found the right place for it. Thanks for informing people about its invasiveness. It's scary to see it out of control.

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    1. If you get up close and see the damage that these invasive plants do to an ecosystem it is very scary. We loose so many native plants due to invasives it is really sad!

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  7. I have one that grows in shade and and somewhat less vigorous but it is still young and ignored.

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  8. Amen Karin! It is all over the place here. Every time I open your blog page, I laugh at the sight of that chipmunk.

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  9. Wisteria is indeed a siren, I agree!

    Sunlight Gardens in TN carries the native wisteria and is an excellent mail order nursery.

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  10. Wisteria is tenacious. Beautiful, but a thug. It needs such a strong support in which to grow, yet has a way of bringing down some mighty arbors in its wake.

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  11. Hi Karin, Your post is a good cautionary tale. It seems many vines must be carefully considered. I planted a variegated Porcelain Vine and have since read that it can be problematic in the same way that Wisteria sinensis can be. You have wisely reminded us that gardeners need to be thoughtful of the environment and responsible in their plant choices.

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  12. I spent last weekend working with my neighbor to try to remove wisteria from a long stretch of fence between us that is up in my trees and has already caused the loss of some of them. Any recommendations for how to get rid of it in large areas? By the way, I've seen the American Wisteria in the gardens in Colonial Williamsburg. I think it is even prettier, but unfortunately not as strongly fragrant.

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    1. Sharon, the best way to eradicate wisteria in a large area is to spray the leaves with a herbicide during the growing season. If you are removing them by hand and need to be mindful of other trees and plants in the area it is best to remove them by hand (sounds like what you are doing)by cutting the vines and pull them out of the trees. You can pull the roots out of the ground but if they are to large paint the cut vine with an herbicide. Be sure to remove as much as possible before they seed and watch for new sprouts. Good luck!

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"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your soul"

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