Wisteria frutescens, or American wisteria, is a woody perennial vine that occurs in wet woodlands and along river banks in the eastern United States. It is useful as an ornamental planting to decorate walls and arbors.
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American wisteria grows as long as 50 feet in length. It has pinnate compound leaves, or nine to 15 pairs of opposite leaflets that grow opposite one another along a leaf stem, with one leaflet at the end of the stem. Each leaflet is approximately 1 to 3 inches long, while the entire leaf is slightly less than a foot in length. American wisteria vines produce drooping clusters of bluish-purple or lavender blossoms, followed by beanlike pods.
Chinese wisteria, or Wisteria sinensis, is a woody vine that grows to approximately 60 feet in length; it bears a strong physical resemblance to American wisteria, but is much more aggressive. It wraps so tightly around trees that it cuts through the bark, killing the tree. Chinese wisteria is listed as an invasive plant in 19 states, according to the National Parks Service. Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) is nearly identical in appearance and just as destructive as Chinese wisteria. It is classified as an invasive species in the eastern United States.
American wisteria, which is far less aggressive than the Chinese or Japanese varieties, prefers full sunlight. Floridata indicates that it tolerates partial shade, but it produces more blossoms if it grows in full sunlight. It grows best in moist, nutrient-rich, slightly acidic or neutral soil. American wisteria produces fragrant blossoms that attract a variety of butterfly species, including Zarucco Duskywing and Marine Blue butterflies.
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