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

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Friday - September 12, 2014

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Vines
Title: Difference between invasive Chinese and Japanese wisterias and native wisteria
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

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 before starting a cutting for the backyard. I've had it for about 15plus years, some leaves get chlorotic in our Round Round soil in the summer time ( or is it just from drought?) it blooms sporadically during the hot summer, but it is not what I would call easy to control. The American native gets up to 39feet tall and this one has scrambled easily that high to the tops of our trees and again after pruning. I've never seen it sprout from roots, though it's seeds do sprout and I pull those up. It does twine counterclockwise like the Chinese variety. Any help appreciated.

ANSWER:

This page from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas tells the difference between the two invasives, Wisteria sinensis (Chinese wisteria) and Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria) and the differences between those two and the native Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria).  The article says:  "Wisteria frutescens is not an aggressive grower and has glabrous fruits and more or less cylindrical, bean-shaped seeds."  That is, W. sinensis (Chinese wisteria) and W. floribunda (Japanese) have fuzzy seed pods; whereas, W. frutescens (American wisteria) has smooth seed pods.

Here is another take on the differences from The Citrus Guy, a Certified Professional Nurseryman and Charleston County Master Gardener from South Carolina citing the seed pod fuzziness for the invasives and the seed pod smoothness for the native wisteria and with other more subtle differences as well.

 

From the Image Gallery


American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

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