Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - June 25, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Vines
Title: Distinguishing non-native Wisteria from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

How do I distinguish a native wisteria from a non-native wisteria?

ANSWER:

About the best we can do is direct you to our Native Plant Database webpage on Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria). which is native to North America and East Texas. Even though it doesn't grow naturally in Central Texas, it is growing on some of the trellises in the Homeowner's Garden at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. From our Image Gallery, below are some pictures of the native plant.

From our webpage, here are the distinguishing characteristics of the native:

"Shiny, dark-green, pinnately compound leaves bear 9-15 leaflets which are opposite on the leaf stem, with 1 leaflet at the tip. The flowers are in large, drooping clusters 6–9 inches long that appear after the plant has leafed out, a difference from the popular Asian species."

Next, we'll try to find some similar characteristics to compare from the non-native wisterias:

University of Connecticut Wisteria floribunda

  • odd, pinnately compound leaves
  • leaves contain 13 to 19 leaflets
  • leaflets are 10" to 15" long
  • leaf arrangement is alternate
  • young leaves are silky pubescent
  • leaf color is bright green
  • emerging leaves may be red-tinged

Invasives.org Wisteria sinensis

"Chinese wisteria is a deciduous woody vine capable of growing to a height of 40 ft. (12.2 m). Stems can be up to 10 in. (25.4 cm) in diameter with smooth, gray-brown bark. Alternate, pinnately compound (7-13 leaflets) leaves are tapered at the tip with wavy edges. Leaflets are approximately 3 in. (7.6 cm) in length. Lavender, purple or white flowers are fragrant, very showy and abundant and occur in long, dangling clusters in the spring. Seeds are contained in flattened, hairy, 6 in. (15.2 cm) long, bean-like pods. Invasions often occur around previous plantings. Chinese wisteria can displace native vegetation and kill trees and shrubs by girdling them. The vine has the ability to change the structure of a forest by killing trees and altering the light availability to the forest floor. A native of China, it was first introduced into the United States in 1816 for ornamental purposes."

Bottom Line: Buy only plants that are native, with the name Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria) on them.

 

From the Image Gallery


American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

More Non-Natives Questions

Suggestions for vegetables to grow in North Texas
October 12, 2015 - Hi, I want some suggestions on vegetable plants that withstands North Texas winter icy weather? and when to plant them? Thanks, Meena.
view the full question and answer

Return to original color of non-native crape myrtles in Henderson, TX
July 17, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I bought 3 Dynamite Crape Myrtles that were about 3 -4 feet tall (at Lowe's). In the late Spring, I planted 2 of them about 100 feet apart, in full sun, and left the other one in...
view the full question and answer

Lawn Maintenance in Colorado
March 20, 2010 - When do I begin to fertilize and water my grass in Colorado Springs? I am selling my house and want my lawn to look green?
view the full question and answer

Non-native tropicals for Syracuse, NY
August 10, 2009 - I live in upstate New York but am a fanatic about tropical plants, palms and banana trees. They're obviously all in pots that I take indoors, and I lose them from time to time. (Had a coconut palm th...
view the full question and answer

Difference between invasive Chinese and Japanese wisterias and native wisteria
September 12, 2014 - Dear Mr or Ms Smarty Plants, Is there any way I can tell for sure if my wisteria is native? I bought it at a place when it was in bloom that sold a lot of native plants. I Would like to know for sure...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.