Characteristics of Chinese Wisteria Tree (Wisteria sinensis) in the Wild

Wisteria sinensis
Chinese wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) is a species of vine and flowering tree native to China (in the provinces of Guangxi, Guizhou, Hebei, Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi, and Yunnan).

Chinese wisteria is widely cultivated in temperate climates as a hedge or bonsai tree because of its tortuous stems and beautiful dangling flowers in spring.

This tree was unknown in the west until 1816 when several East India Company agents working in China shipped cuttings to England. Over the next few decades, the tree grew in size and became one of the most popular vines in temperate gardens around the world.

It has become an invasive species in some areas of the eastern United States where the climate is very similar to that of China.

Chinese wisteria can be grown and trained to climb over iron walls/frames in the garden to create a flowery alley or trail. This tree can also be trained as a stand-alone tree, such as a bonsai tree.

Chinese Wisteria is more sensitive to cold than American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) and Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda). Although the roots can withstand USDA Zone 5 weather, the stems will begin to break down if the temperature drops below -6 °C. In addition, the frequency of spring frosts in Zones 5 and 6 can kill flower buds, leaving trees to bloom only sporadically.

AWESOME CHINESE WISTERIA TREE

The one hectare (4,000 m²) Chinese wisteria growing in Sierra Madre, California has been recorded by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest flowering plant.

A 200-year-old Chinese Wisteria tree growing at Griffin’s Brewery in Chiswick, London, is often referred to as the oldest living Wisteria in England.

 

Several Chinese Wisteria cultivars are popular as ornamental trees and have earned the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, including:

  • Wisteria sinensis ‘Alba’ – white flowers
  • Wisteria sinensis ‘Prolific’ – classic purple flower
  • Wisteria sinensis ‘Amethyst’ – reddish-purple flowers and very fragrant

 

Characteristics of Chinese Wisteria Leaf

Wisteria sinensis Leaf
Source: inaturalist.org/dorothymcq

The leaves are glossy, green, pinnately compound, and 10-30 cm long. The leaves are oval, each 2-6 cm long.

 

Characteristics of Chinese Wisteria Flower

Wisteria sinensis Flower
Source: inaturalist.org/sarahpolster

The flowers are purple or blue, appear in bunches 15-20 cm long, and appear in spring. The flowers on each raceme open simultaneously before the foliage expands, and have a distinctive aroma similar to wine.

Although the Chinese Wisteria has a shorter raceme than the Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda), it often has a higher number of racemes.

 

Characteristics of Chinese Wisteria Fruit

Wisteria sinensis Fruit
Source: inaturalist.org/burdli

The fruit is a flat, brown pod, 5-10 cm long with thick, disc-like seeds about 1 cm in diameter evenly spaced inside. The fruit ripens in summer then opens to release seeds, the empty pods often persist into winter.

 

Characteristics of Chinese Wisteria Tree

Wisteria sinensis Tree
Source: inaturalist.org/nilsemaj

Wisteria sinensis grows naturally by attaching to a support plant or artificial structure with stems coiled counterclockwise. The age of the tree is quite long and is one of the most popular ornamental flower trees throughout the world.

All parts of the Chinese Wisteria tree contain a glycoside called wisterin, it is toxic if ingested by humans and can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea. Wisteria has caused poisoning in children in many countries, causing mild to severe gastroenteritis.

 

HOW TO CULTIVATE CHINESE WISTERIA TREE

Most Chinese Wisteria is propagated regeneratively through layering and suckering.

 

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