Monday, May 10, 2010

American Wisteria - Wisteria frutescens

American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is our only native wisteria.  The other commonly planted species all originate from Asia and can be quite invasive.  American wisteria occurs naturally in Florida only in the panhandle and a few scattered counties in north Florida.  It also occurs throughout nearly every state in the eastern half of the U.S.  Like its Asian relatives, it is a vine that rambles extensively throughout the adjacent vegetation and it can eventually extend its reach many feet from the main stem.  But, compared to Chinese and Japanese species, it is diminutive.
American wisteria is a wetland plant and most common at the edge of forested wetlands where it gets partial sun - or at least some shade for part of the day.  It is quite adaptable, however, and can be grown in the landscape in much drier soils and in nearly full sun. 
It is deciduous and remains leafless for several months during the winter.  In April to early May, the compound leaves are quickly followed by many flower buds.  These are produced on last year's growth, so it is very important not to prune these plants back in winter while they are dormant.  Each flower bud is composed of many dozens of rich purple flowers.  As this plant is in the bean and pea family (legumes), the flowers are distinctive and are followed by small heads of beans, each containing a few hard seeds.
American wisteria can be grown very effectively on a fence or trellis where its rambling growth can be somewhat maintained.  It does not have tendrils, so it may have to be helped at first while it tries to find a place to hang on to.  Give it a bit of extra water during periods of extended drought and it will perform well nearly statewide.  The plant we added to our Pinellas County landscape has bloomed profusely for years and has required very little care or attention.
American wisteria is sometimes offered by nurseries associated with AFNN - the Association of Florida Native Nurseries, though it may take some looking to find it.  We do not grow it at Hawthorn Hill, but it would be quite easy to take our seed and germinate them should an interest for it arise.  Ask us if you are interested.

16 comments:

  1. absolutely informative and eductional

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  2. I would absolutely love to have some seeds or seedlings if you don't mind germinating them, assuming it will thrive in Duval County/Jacksonville. Thanks!

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  3. GatorCee- This plant would do well where you live. My plant will not have seed, however, until early fall. Please email me directly in July to remind me and I'll see what I can do. Huegelc55(at)aol.com

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  4. Hi! This is very informative article. I am interested in planting wisteria in NW Florida (Okaloosa county) - do you thing this area is suitable for this plant? Thanks!

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  5. It is native to your county - and northward - so give it a try. If you have a ~dry site, just make sure you water it well as it gets established. Thanks for the kind words.

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  6. Id like to grow this in a front yard in Hillsborough County (Tampa) that gets full sun. Still have any seeds from July?

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  7. No seeds left from this year. Check next late spring.

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  8. Will this grow in South Brevard on the beach"""""??????

    Thanks. Love your site.

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  9. I would be surprised if it proved to be salt tolerant. Otherwise, it is quite adaptable to varying sun and moisture conditions.

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  10. Hi,
    Thanks for the great information. I acquired some seeds this year and was curious as to the best way to start them. These seeds seem very hard which makes me wonder if there is a special way to plant them.

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  11. Though they have a hard seed coat, I have not found that they need a special scarification strategy to germinate. You may want to soak them for about 24 hours prior to planting in a flat or pot.

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  12. Though they have a hard seed coat, I have not found that they need a special scarification strategy to germinate. You may want to soak them for about 24 hours prior to planting in a flat or pot.

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    1. Thank you. I will give them a try.

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  13. When do you have seeds? I know this is old, just thought I'd ask.

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  14. Janet- I rarely have extra seed of anything. A few plants in my yard sometimes make more than I can grow and I offer them to folks so they don't all go to waste. I never collect more seed than I intend to grow from any wild population and I rarely grow more than 20-40 plants of anything in any given year. American wisteria is not something I routinely grow, though I have one in my landscape. Others grow it routinely.

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  15. Janet- I rarely have extra seed of anything. A few plants in my yard sometimes make more than I can grow and I offer them to folks so they don't all go to waste. I never collect more seed than I intend to grow from any wild population and I rarely grow more than 20-40 plants of anything in any given year. American wisteria is not something I routinely grow, though I have one in my landscape. Others grow it routinely.

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