Chinese and Japanese Wisteria

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Andrew W. Mellon
Andrew W. Mellon

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Invasive Plants in Pennsylvania
Chinese and Japanese Wisteria
Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda
Photo: Chris Evans, River to River CWMA,
Exotic wisterias are popular
ornamental landscape plants
that can escape from yards
into natural areas. They were
brought to the U.S. in the early
Chinese wisteria is more
widespread than the Japanese
species, but both can be found
throughout much of the east
coast, particularly in the south.
Chinese wisteria can be found
as far north as New England.
Biology and Spread:
Wisteria are long-lived,
deciduous, woody climbing
vines that may reach a height
of 60 to 70 feet or more.
Chinese wisteria vines are
brown-gray in color with fine
white hairs, while the Japanese
wisteria vines are smooth and
brown. Both can attain a
diameter of 15 inches or more.
The compound leaves
alternate along the stem and
have many leaflets (Japanese:
up to 19, Chinese: up to 13).
The flowers are showy, violetblue in color and occur in long
drooping clusters.
Most infestations of exotic
wisterias appear to be the
result of persistent vegetative
spread of old plantings,
although seed propagation is
also possible. Four to six
seeds are contained within
each fuzzy, flat five-inch-long
Wisteria prefers full sun, but
established vines can grow
and reproduce in partial
shade. It is tolerant of a
variety of soil types and
moisture levels, but prefers
loamy, well-drained soils.
Infestations are commonly
found along forest edges,
roadsides and rights-of-way.
Photo: James Miller, USDA FS,
Photo: James Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern
Weed Science Society,
Ecological Threat:
Because of the twining nature
of these vines, they can
outcompete trees and other
vegetation for canopy space.
A dense, nearly impenetrable
thicket can result, inhibiting
normal forest succession.
Native Alternatives:
A combination of methods
yields the best results.
There is a native American
wisteria (Wisteria frutescens L
Poir.) that grows from Virginia
to Florida. It is not as common
in the nursery trade as the
exotics. Other native vine
alternatives include trumpet
creeper (Campsis radicans),
trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera
sempervirens) and crossvine
(Bignonia capreolata) - shown
For small infestations, handpull, getting the roots too.
Bag and dispose of all plant
parts. Any portion of the root
remaining in the ground may
For vines in trees, cut the
stem, pull out the rooted
portion, and leave the vine in
the tree. Do not attempt to
pull it out as it could cause
damage to the tree or fall and
injure you.
For vines climbing up trees
or buildings, cut the stem
and apply a concentrated
systemic herbicide like
triclopyr or glyphosate to the
cut surface of the rooted
portion of the vine.
For large infestations, a foliar
herbicide may be the best
option, rather than manual
or mechanical removal
which could disturb too
much soil. The ideal time to
spray is when the plant has
gone dormant in October or
Photo: James Miller & Ted
Bodner, Southern Weed
Science Society,
How to Control this Species:
Photo: James Miller & Ted Bodner, Southern Weed Science Society,
American wisteria (shown
below) has smaller flower
clusters and smooth seed
pods. The stems are brown to
reddish-brown and smooth.
The vines twine clockwise
around a tree, whereas the
exotics twine counterclockwise.
Plant Conservation Alliance’s Least Wanted factsheets:
Invasive Exotic Plant Tutorial for Land Managers: http://
For More Information:
To learn more about invasive plants in Pennsylvania and the
northeast, here are some useful resources:
DCNR Invasive Species Site:
Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas, National Park

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