Wisteria frutescens

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American Wisteria
Wisteria frutescens.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Fabales
Family: Fabaceae
(unranked): Inverted repeat-lacking clade (incertae sedis)
Tribe: Millettieae
Genus: Wisteria
Species: W. frutescens
Binomial name
Wisteria frutescens
(L.) Poir.
  • Apios frutescens (L.) Pursh.
  • Bradlea frutescens (L.) Britton
  • Bradlea macrostachya
    (Torr. & A. Gray) Small
  • Glycine frutescens L.
  • Kraunhia frutescens (L.) Raf. ex Greene
  • Kraunhia macrostachya
    (Torr. & A. Gray) Small
  • Kraunhia macrostachys
    (Torr. & A. Gray) Small
  • Phaseolodes frutescens (L.) Kuntze
  • Phaseolus frutescens (L.) Eaton & Wright
  • Thrysanthus frutescens (L.) Elliott
  • Wisteria frutescens (L.) Poir. var. macrostachya
    Torr. & A. Gray
  • Wisteria frutescens var. alba Rehder & Wilson
  • Wisteria frutescens var. albolilacina Dippel
  • Wisteria frutescens var. magnifica Herincq
  • Wisteria macrostachya
    (Torr. & A. Gray) Robinson & Fernald
  • Wisteria macrostachya f. albolilacina Rehder

Wisteria frutescens (American Wisteria) is a woody, deciduous, perennial climbing vine, one of various wisterias of the Fabaceae family. It is native to the wet forests and stream banks of the southeastern United States, with a range stretching from the states of Virginia to Texas (Northeast Texas Piney Woods) and extending southeast through Florida, also north to Iowa, Michigan, and New York.

American Wisteria can grow up to 15m long over many supports via powerful clockwise-twining stems. It produces dense clusters of blue-purple, two-lipped, 2-cm-wide flowers on racemes 5–15 cm long in late spring to early summer. These are the smallest racemes produced by any Wisteria. Though it has never been favored in many gardens for this characteristic, many bonsai artists employ American Wisteria for its manageably-sized flowers, and it is charming as a woodland flowering vine.

Wisteria frutescens seeds in pod halves

The foliage consists of shiny, dark-green, pinnately compound leaves 10–30 cm in length. The leaves bear 9-15 oblong leaflets that are each 2–6 cm long. It also bears numerous poisonous, bean-like seed pods 5–10 cm long that mature in summer and persist until winter; the pods are fuzzy and greenish-tan when young, but shiny brown and smooth when dry. The seeds are large and brown (see image). American Wisteria prefers moist soils. It is considered shade tolerant, but will flower only when exposed to partial or full sun. It grows best in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9.

Several characteristics distinguish American Wisteria from its Asian counterparts. It grows only two-thirds as tall, its racemes are half as long (the shortest of the Wisteria family), and its bloom time is sometimes shorter than many Asian varieties. Its flowers are not scented, and its seed pods are smooth rather than velvety when mature. Its most redeeming feature is the fact that it is much less invasive than its Asian counterparts, especially the beautiful but ruthless Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis).[12] American Wisteria is very similar to Kentucky Wisteria (Wisteria macrostachya) which has been considered a variety of W. frutescens but grows somewhat differently and has a fragrance.

Wisteria frutescens by Ellis Rowan, 1901


Pests and diseases[edit]

Wisteria frutescens, in general, is subject to few pests or diseases;it is, however, subject to damage by typical pests like aphids, leaf miners, Japanese beetles, scale insects, and mealybugs. Pests of particular concern are longhorn beetles, such as Synaphaeta guexi, and the Asian long-horned beetle. These beetles will bore into the woody stems of young or unhealthy wisteria, which causes disruption of water and nutrient flow or death. This also allows for the potential to introduce disease, like rot.[13][14]

Wisteria species contain a saponin known as Wisterin, sometimes called Wistarin, in the bark, branches, pods, roots, and seeds. It is debated whether or not the flowers are toxic. An unkown and toxic resin is present as well. Poisoning from the plant results in mild to severe gastroenteritis, nausea, frequent vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. This can result in dehydration and collapse ins erious cases. Recovery generally occurs in 24 hours. Wisterin has been shown to be similar to the alkaloid cytisine, but less potent. It has a bittersweet taste. As with cytisine containing Laburnum, its leaves are sometimes taken as a tobacco substitute. The concentration of toxins varies in all portions of the plant and varies during different seasons. [15][16]

Aplosporella wistariae Ellis & Barthol., previously known as Haplosporella wistariae Ellis & Barthol.,[17] has been found on some cultivars of wisteria in Louisville, Kansas. Its stromata are elliptical or orbicular, are 1-2 mm in diameter, and are sunk into the bark, which causes raised pustules, some of which are ruptured. Its perithecia are 120-150 µm and are white inside; sporules are oblong, measuring 12-16 by 6-7 µm.[18]

Partly dead leaves of Wisteria frutescens have been found to host Phomatospora wistariae Ellis & Everh. This fungus is ascocarp|perithecial, meaning its fruiting body is round or flask-shaped with an ostiole through which its ascospores are released. It is mostly ephiphytic, and it grows in relatively flat gray spots that are approximately 2-4 mm. in diameter. These spots are bounded by narrow dark lines; however, they frequently run together. Phomatospora wistariae is hyaline in appearence and resembles a membrane, it is sessile, it does not have paraphyses, its asci are oblong, and its sporidia are biseriate and have an oblong-elliptical shape. Its perithecia mesaure to about 110-120µm, its asci 35-45 by 10-12 µm, and its sporidia 12 by 6 µm.[18]

Rhizobium radiobacter, previously known as Agrobacterium tumefaciens and commonly as Crown Gall, is a soil-borne bacterium that occasionally infects wisteria, causing abnormal growths or swellings on the roots or stems. It infects the plant through its Ti plasmid, and then A. tumefaciens integrates a part of its DNA into the chromosome of the host plant's cells.[19]The K-48 strain of the bacterium can be effectively used to prevent infection by the pathogenic strain of Crown Gall.[20]

Root-knot nematodes are parasites known to affect most species of plants, but wisteria can also be susceptible to Texas root rot caused by the fungus Phymatotrichum omnivorum. Texas root rot damages the roots and prevents their absorption of water, resulting in wilting then death.[19]

Identification of other diseases specifically inflicting Wisteria, beyond Wisteria brachybotrys, Wisteria floribunda, Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria venusta, is indeterminate. This includes Erysiphe cichoracearum Botryosphaeria and Phomopsis canker and dieback pathogens, Phyllosticta wisteriae, and Septoria wisteriae. Wisteria vein mosaic virus (a variant of the tobacco mosaic virus) and subterranean clover stunt virus are the only two known viruses to infect Wisteria species, and Wisteria frutescens' ability to resist these is indeterminate as well.[21][19][22][23][24][25]


  1. ^ Amos Eaton & John Wright (1840). A Manual of Botany Edition 8. 
  2. ^ Muriel V. Roscoe (October 1927). "Cytological Studies in the Genus Wisteria (Botanical Gazette Vol. 84 No. 2 pg. 171-186)". The University of Chicago Press. 
  3. ^ Frederick Traugott Pursh (1814). Flora Americae Septentrionalis. White, Cochrance, and co. 
  4. ^ "International Legume Database & Information Service". Retrieved May 24, 2015. 
  5. ^ "IPNIS Albolilacina". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  6. ^ "Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia". 1818. 
  7. ^ Arnold Arboretum (1919). "Journal of the Arnold Arboretum". Arnold Arboretum, Harvard University. 
  8. ^ Nathaniel Lord Britton (1901). Manual of the Flora of the northern States and Canada. 
  9. ^ Constantine Samuel Rafinesque & Edward Lee Greene (1891). Pittonia Vol. II. 
  10. ^ Carl Ernst Otto Kuntze (5 November 1891). Revisio Generum Plantarum Pars. 1. A. Felix. 
  11. ^ Revue Horticole. Audot. 1862. 
  12. ^ http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=WIFR University Of Texas at Austin Native Plant Database
  13. ^ "Wisteria Boarer Control". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Fine Gardening American Wisteria". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  15. ^ Kent D. Perkins, Willward W. Payne (1970). Guide to the Poisonous and Irritant Plants of Florida. Valerie D'lppolito (illustrator). Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. 
  16. ^ Jacqueline Kupper, Daniel Demuth (2010). Giftige Pflanzen für Klein- und Heimtiere: Pflanze erkennen - Gift benennen - Richtig therapieren. Georg Thieme Verlag. p. 86. 
  17. ^ "Index Fungorum Haplosporella wistariae Ellis & Barthol.". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  18. ^ a b William Ashbrook Kellerman (2008) [October 14, 1902]. "Journal of Mycology, Volume 8". BiblioBazaar. 
  19. ^ a b c "Plant Disease Hand Book Texas A&M AgriLife Extention Wisteria". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  20. ^ "UC IPM How to Manage Pests UC Pest Management Guidelines". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Phyllosticta leaf spot of Chinese wisteria" (PDF). Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  22. ^ Brunt, A.A., Crabtree, K., Dallwitz, M.J., Gibbs, A.J., Watson, L. and Zurcher, E.J. (eds.). "Plant Viruses Online". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Septoria wisteriae bioinfo". Retrieved May 26, 2015. 
  24. ^ G. R. G. Clover1, Z. Tang, T. E. Smales and, M. N. Pearson (Jan 20, 2003). "Taxonomy of Wisteria vein mosaic virus and extensions to its host range and geographical distribution". 
  25. ^ "UC IPM wisteria". Retrieved May 26, 2015.