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Japanese wisteria vines and leaflets

Both Japanese and Chinese wisteria bear light purple flowers, long seed pods and alternate compound leaves of wavy, egg-shaped leaflets, having smooth margins and strongly tapering tips. Japanese wisteria leaves are 8-12 in. long, with 13-17 (11-19) leaflets. Chinese wisteria leaves are 6-10 in. long with 9-11 (7-13) leaflets. 

Japanese and Chinese wisteria also differ by the directional rotation of the vine around a tree — clockwise or counter-clockwise, respectively. Although both are invasive and difficult to control or eradicate, Chinese is worse. (Least aggressive is American wisteria.)

Wisteria Leaflets

Click Vine Removal for details regarding ivy and vine removal from a host tree.  Wisteria vines can emerge 10 to 15 feet from its victim tree to bring it down, making the surrounding area impenetrable.

A Jungle of Wisteria Vines

Wisteria vines reproduce by seed from the pods and by runners or stolons (above-ground stems) that produce shoots and roots at short intervals. To prevent dispersal, wisteria seed pods should be removed and disposed.

Wisteria seed pods

Cut tree-climbing vines at the ground and pull out all the roots to effectively remove this plant.

Budding Wisteria Vine

For large vines, cut with a hand saw or battery operated reciprocating saw near the ground, or use a chain saw above the ground; dig out large roots with a Pulaski tool or mattock, and a weed wrench

Large Wisteria Vine and Root

The ground should be moist to successfully uproot wisteria runners. One of the best times for uprooting is late fall and winter during a warm interval when the ground has thawed.

Interwoven Runners Along Ground

Clear the ground of leaves, twigs and branches to see the stolons that often crisscross each other. Snip and remove over-runners to enable uprooting the ones being pulled.

Air-Drying Uprooted Stolons

Nodes are swellings or knobs in a stolon from which stems or roots emerge. Pruners or by-pass loppers work well to cut smaller stolons between the nodes. A limb saw blade on a reciprocating saw is good for larger cuts.

Stems Emerge at this Node

Larger nodes have deeper roots, which need to be uprooted with a weed wrench while the ground is damp.

Wisteria Root from Node

The best tool to pull the stolons with their roots intact is a serrated anvil jaw lopper, used as a vice. This tool grabs and provides leverage for pulling out the smaller roots. It also severs wisteria’s strong runners with a quick, firm, power cut to break the stem.

Lopper with Serrated Anvil Jaw

The wisteria stolons and roots are generally yellow, whereas Oriental bittersweet roots are generally bright orange; English ivy is brown, and the knotty porcelain-berry root, reddish brown.

Because any portion of the severed runners/stolons that remain on the ground may sprout or root at the nodes, soft/pliable woody cuttings should be air dried above ground or bagged and disposed.

Ongoing management should begin early in the growing season to pull emerging  sprouts or root suckers every few weeks.

Save Native Plants…Remove Invasive Species