By Meaghan English, TrueSouth Properties Wildlife Specialist
Did you know that some of nature’s prettiest flora is an invasive species? Some invasive species smell so good it’s hard to believe they are detrimental to our ecosystem. It’s almost like the more beautiful they are, the worse they are for our native foliage- go figure! Wisteria falls into the category of dangerously beautiful. Its whimsical flowers and heavenly scent almost mask the true wickedness of this vine.
It is hard to go very far down a country road before you see patches of purple flowers covering trees on the roadside. This would be the invasive vine Wisteria. This lovely nonnative arrived here from Asia around the 19th century. Back in the good ole days, gardeners and housewives thought it would be nice to hang wisteria across porches or fences. Some gardeners still to this day like for Wisteria to weave and wind up a trellis of some sort. Unfortunately, this vine will wind and weave until it has covered an entire house! It can climb objects or trees as high as 70 feet. The leaves of this vine are very similar to that of trumpet creeper (if you are familiar with that vine) with wavy margins and many leaflets. Right now is the best time of the year to see the fancy purple flowers of this vine. The fragrance of these flowers is one that you will never forget! When many vines are clustered together, they fill the air with their sweet fragrance and for a second, you will wonder how in the world this vine could be troublesome. But troublesome is an understatement. This vine will form dense infestations where it is first planted. Once established, it will cover large areas with its long and winding vines. It will cover all shrubs and trees in its path and will root at nodes. Wisteria prefers wet to dry sites. The seeds of this vine are dispersed by water when it is in a wet area. Part of the reason for the wide infestation and expansion of this vine is its beauty- many people would rather enjoy the aesthetics of this vine and its fragrance.
Chances are, you have already been exposed to Wisteria this year and you too have almost been fooled by its sights and smells! While it is hard to eradicate the vine once it is established, it is best to avoid introducing more Wisteria into native forests. So if you must, go down the road and see the Wisteria that is already covering trees and shrubs, just don’t go planting your own Wisteria thicket!
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