Garden Dilemmas, Delights & Discoveries, Ask Mary Stone, New Jersey Garden blog

Wisteria Reflections on Invasiveness

Invasive Wisteria with light purple flowers choking a large tree

Hello fellow readers, As I write, I’m delighted to report a robin’s nest underway outside my kitchen window. I look forward to sharing an analogy about one of their instincts to protect their nest. A little teaser here- It involves their reflection in the windows. But first, more about Wisteria, which we mentioned last week, and how to choose less invasive species.

Susan is attacking an invasion of Wisteria… 

a woman in a grey sweatshirt wrestling wisteria out of a shrub

Whenever we walk the roads, Jolee abruptly stops and sits in front of Susan and Don’s house to see if they’re working in the garden. She adores them, and so do I. Susan was tackling an invasion of Wisteria left behind by Don’s sister, who once lived on the property where they built their new home. (I introduced you to Don and Susan in Mending Fences with Forsythia.)

Susan showed me the thick Wisteria roots trailing the surface. I had never considered it spreads underground so aggressively though I know Wisteria is invasive, other than the native variety.

Wisteria is a genus of about ten species. Eight are Asian, including Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) and Chinese Wisteria (W. senensis). The barely fragrant American Wisteria and Kentucky Wisteria are non-invasive alternatives to the Asian species on the USDA list of invasive plants. I’ve seen the strength of their wrist-thick wisteria vines, devastating decks, and other wooden structures. And how they escape and strangle even mature trees.

The invasiveness of wisteria suffocating and old tree

Wisteria can kill a tree.

The Asian species bloom before the leaves emerge, while the American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens, Zones 5–9) bloom at the same time they leaf out but are otherwise similar. The flower trusses are not as long and are less aggressive and easier to prune to manage their size. ‘Amethyst Falls’ is a favored native cultivar for smaller spaces, quickly growing to 8 to 10 feet though it can reach 30 feet over time if unpruned. Then there’s ‘Clara Mack, ‘a white flowering cousin you’ll adore.

Why do robins crash into windows?

robin in nestBack to the robin family,  I adore their coming each year to nest in the viburnum beyond the kitchen. This year though, the male robin keeps flying into the windows. They say that most robins that repeatedly crash into windows are territorial males.

Usually, when one robin intrudes on another’s territory, it flies away when the resident robin approaches, but not so with a reflection because as the bird comes to the window, it appears larger. And so there’s an aggressive attack with the window repeatedly. It’s a worry because they can accidentally injure or kill themselves in the fight. It’s bizarre but understandable because they’re protecting their family and caring for their young, something we all wish to do.

You can help by taping paper or cardboard to the outside of the window to eliminate the reflection. Hopefully, once the babies hatch, he’ll be too busy tending to feed his young to worry about his phantom image.

Invasive weeds are like the invasiveness of anger. 

There’s a sequel to Mending Fences with Forsythia I’d like to share. The neighbor was furious when Don kindly mowed in front of his fence while mowing the lawn. Now Don and Susan look at unsightly no-trespassing signs along with the chain link fence. It seems odd that the neighbor is so angry, making me reflect that, like invasive plants, anger can be invasive too. Perhaps the neighbor is also fighting his reflection, like the robin. Maybe wounds from the past have manifested somehow, triggering anger. It’s hard not to respond angrily back. Rather than that, be neighborly and show kindness to your neighbors as Susan and Don try to do. Treat our neighbors as though they’re family because we’re all one in this world.

Hopefully, they will work it out. By approaching it with love, perhaps the neighbor’s point of view and invasive anger will shift. And they can become great neighbors, far better than anger or fences. Garden Dilemmas? and your favorite Podcast App.

Enjoy more of the story in the Garden Dilemmas Podcast:

Links to related stories: 

Managing Wisteria

Mending Fence with Forsythia

Fine Gardening Magazine’s Story – How to Train Wisteria – Turn your vine into a tree using these pruning and staking techniques


Mary Stone, owner of Stone Associates Landscape Design & Consulting. As a Landscape Designer, I am grateful for the joy of helping others beautify their surroundings which often leads to sharing encouragement and life experiences. These relationships inspired my weekly column published in THE PRESS, 'Garden Dilemmas? Ask Mary', began in 2012. I dream of growing the evolving community of readers into an interactive forum to share encouragement and support in Garden and Personal Recoveries - seeking nature’s inspirations, stimulating growth, weeding undesirables, embracing the unexpected. Thank you for visiting! Mary

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