Wisterias climb by twining their stems either clockwise or counterclockwise round any available support. They can climb as high as 66 ft. above the ground and spread out 33 ft. laterally. The world’s largest known wisteria is in Sierra Madre, California, measuring more than 1 acre in size and weighing 250 tons. Planted in 1894, it is of the ‘Chinese lavender’ variety. (Wikipedia)
As beautiful as it is, wisteria is non-native, brought from China in 1816 for horticultural purposes and from Japan around 1830. Wisteria is considered an invasive species because of its ability to overtake and “choke out” native plants. Does that mean this plant we love is supposed to be on our “grrr, we need to destroy and conquer” list? After more than 100 years in our soil, shouldn’t wisteria be considered an “honorary” native plant?
Wisteria vs. Wistaria.
Despite the fact that this plant was apparently named in memory of Dr. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818), botanist Thomas Nuttall chose the spelling wisteria as it was more pleasant to the ear, he surmised, than wistaria. Another story is that the naming had nothing to do with Dr. Wistar and everything to do with a friend of Nuttall’s called Charles Wister.
BreatheLighter.com states that the Arboretum aligns with the Dr. Wistar version and calls it wistaria, as does the Sierra Madre Wistaria Festival. Others call it wisteria though attribute the misspelling to a misprint back in 1819. Perhaps indicative of a still-combative spirit, the Oxford English Dictionary favors wistaria while most American dictionaries consider that a “variant” (vagrant?) spelling.
Either way, we love this purple flowering plant and we’re thankful to our readers who’ve shared their photos.
From Meredith Felton Miller, owner of Meredith M in Altadena …
Be happy in your world of Wisteria!