Mountain Views News, Combined Edition Saturday, March 26, 2022

MVNews this week:  Page B:2

Mountain View News Saturday, March 26, 2022 B2 ......AND MORE WISTARIA ACTIVITIES Mountain View News Saturday, March 26, 2022 B2 ......AND MORE WISTARIA ACTIVITIES 

[Nyerges is an educator, author, and ethnobotanist who has authored “Nuts and Berries of 
California,” and nearly 20 other books. You can find more information at www.SchoolofSelfReliance.

This weekend, people from around the world will flock to Sierra Madre for the 
annual Wistaria Festival. OK, maybe not from around the world, but certainly 
from near and far in Southern California. 
Every town whose leaders are farseeing, seeks to find some pot at the end of the 
rainbow from which to extract endless revenue for its residents. For Pasadena, it is the Rose Parade 
and related activities. For Sierra Madre, it is the unlikely wistaria vine, considered one of the oldest 

The vine is a sprawling plant most of the year, and around March it starts to set its buds and produce 
its drooping mildly-fragrant purple flowers. It’s very attractive. One year, I went on the tour of the 
“Wistaria House” and was treated to a very special tour. After learning how the roots destroyed at 
least one former structure on the property, I left with the firm conviction that I would never, ever 
plant a wistaria vine anywhere near any home or structure that I owned! I know some will bristle 
at this, but just look at the facts – wistaria is best grown well away from your important structures. 

As an aside, the wise leaders of Sierra Madre finally tried doing the right thing to buy the property 
where the famous wistaria vine grow, to preserve and protect it for perpetuity! Unfortunately, 
the city did not prevail and the new owners will hopefully be prepared to allow visitors to see the 
mother of all Wistaria in 2023. This year visitors will still be able to view many other Wistaria Vines 
throughout the city, including a walk through of the Vine at the City Hall Rotunda. 

There is a duality to Wisteria, starting with those who think it’s an invasive weed and those who like 
to eat its sweet, fragrant blossoms.
Where did Wistaria get its name? Some say it is named after Dr. Caspar Wistar (1761-1818) physician, 
anatomist, vaccination champion and abolitionist. Others say it was named for Charles Jones 
Wister Sr., whose father, Daniel, paid for the voyage of the Empress of China which brought a Wisteria 
vine to North America from China. But apparently Wisteria had already been brought to the 
Wiseria’s multiple personality continues with edibility. The blossoms of the plant are edible raw or 
cooked. The rest of the plant is toxic per se. In fact, as little as two raw seeds can kill a child. That 
is not uncommon for a member of the pea family which ranges from edible to toxic, so we do not 
recommend that you eat the seeds.
Wisteria is a vigorous, fast grower that doesn’t need fertilizer and fixes nitrogen. In fact, abuse improves 
blossoming as does pruning. It can live at least 144 years (as of 2014) and is consider an invasive 
spe-cies is some areas. It has naturalized from Maine to Florida and as far west as Arkansas. 
It commonly grows wild in certain S. California backyards.
In Japan, the young leaves of the W. floribunda (aka W. macrobotrys and W. multijuga) are cooked 
and eaten, and the blossoms are blanched. This holds true for the Wisteria venusta, or Silky Wisteria. 
It has white flower clusters six inches long, vine to 25 feet, 9 to 13 leaflets, counter clockwise 

The seeds and leaves of the Wisteria japonica were used as a famine food — but are not recommended 
— and the flowers of the Wisteria villosa have been eaten. 
There are several species of the Wisteria plant, includ-ing sinsensis, frutescens, floribunda, macrostachys, 
and others.
I recall some years ago that at least a few merchants at a past Wistaria Festival were selling a jam 
made from the wistaria blossoms. After I researched the viability of doing this, I came up with 
advice from Greene Deane. 
For those who want to try eating the wistaria blossoms, ethnobotanist Greene Deane offers the 
following method of preparation: “Blossoms raw or cooked, REMOVE THE STEMS! The Japanese 
blanch their blossoms. Japanese Wisteria leaves boiled when young, seeds roasted, reportedly a 
chestnut flavor, leave also used for tea. None recommended regarding the Japanese Wisteria. Also 
raw seeds are toxic. The toxin is a glycoside which is usually a sugar molecule attached to a nitrogen 
molecule or the like and is stripped off during digestion.” 

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