Visually striking large cameo glass vase of slender shape, the surface etched and enamel painted with hanging leaves of Chinese wisteria against a dramatic sky blue background, signed in cameo to the body Daum Nancy and with the Cross of Lorraine
Wisteria (also spelled Wistaria or Wysteria) is a genus of flowering plants in the legume family, Fabaceae (Leguminosae), that includes ten species of woody climbing bines native to the Eastern United States and to China, Korea, and Japan. Some species are popular ornamental plants. An aquatic flowering plant with the common name wisteria or ‘water wisteria’ is in fact Hygrophila difformis, in the family Acanthaceae.
Wisteria is very hardy and fast-growing. It can grow in fairly poor-quality soils, but prefers fertile, moist, well-drained soil. It thrives in full sun. It can be propagated via hardwood cutting, softwood cuttings, or seed. However, specimens grown from seed can take decades to bloom; for this reason, gardeners usually grow plants that have been started from rooted cuttings or grafted cultivars known to flower well. Another reason for failure to bloom can be excessive fertilizer (particularly nitrogen). The plant has nitrogen fixing capability (provided by Rhizobia bacteria in root nodules), and thus mature plants may benefit from added potassium and phosphate, but not nitrogen. Finally, it can be reluctant to bloom because it has not reached maturity. Maturation may require only a few years, as in Kentucky wisteria, or nearly twenty, as in Chinese wisteria. Maturation can be forced by physically abusing the main trunk, root pruning, or drought stress.
Wisteria can grow into a mound when unsupported, but is at its best when allowed to clamber up a tree, pergola, wall, or other supporting structure. Whatever the case, the support must be very sturdy, because mature wisteria can become immensely strong with heavy wrist-thick trunks and stems. These can collapse latticework, crush thin wooden posts, and even strangle large trees. When allowed to grow on houses it can cause damage to gutters, downspouts, and similar structures.
Wisteria flowers develop in buds near the base of the previous year’s growth, so pruning back side shoots to the basal few buds in early spring can enhance the visibility of the flowers. If it is desired to control the size of the plant, the side shoots can be shortened to between 20 and 40 cm long in midsummer, and back to 10 to 20 cm in the fall. Once the plant is a few years old, a relatively compact, free-flowering form can be achieved by pruning off the new tendrils three times during the growing season; in June, July and August, for the northern hemisphere. The flowers of some varieties are edible, and can even be used to make wine. Others are said to be toxic. Careful identification by an expert is strongly recommended before consuming this or any wild plant.
Chinese wisteria was brought to the United States for horticultural purposes in 1816, while Japanese wisteria was introduced around 1830. Because of its hardiness and tendency to escape cultivation, these non-native wisterias are considered invasive species in many parts of the U.S., especially the Southeast, due to their ability to overtake and choke out other native plant species
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