Herb: Chinese Wisteria

Latin name: Wisteria sinensis

Synonyms: Glycine sinensis, Wisteria chinensis

Family: Leguminosae

Medicinal use of Chinese Wisteria:

The seed is diuretic. It is used in the treatment of heart ailments. One report says that the stems and flowers are also used in Chinese medicine, but gives no more information.

Description of the plant:


25 m
(82 feet)



Habitat of the herb:

Clambering over cliffs and trees on woodland edges at low altitudes in W. China.

Edible parts of Chinese Wisteria:

Seed - cooked. Some caution is advised, see notes on toxicity at the top of the page. Flowers - cooked. They are thoroughly washed and then boiled or made into fritters. The flowers are also cured in sugar then mixed with flour and made into a famous local delicacy called "Teng Lo". The leaves contain allantoic acid. They are used as a tea substitute. The young leaves have also been eaten.

Other uses of the herb:

A fibre from the stems can be used to make paper, the fibre is about 1.3 - 3.7mm long. Stems are harvested in the summer, the leaves removed and the stems steamed until the fibre can be stripped. The fibres are cooked for 2 hours with lye and then put in a ball mill for 3 hours. The paper is a buff colour.

Propagation of Chinese Wisteria:

The seed does not exhibit any dormancy habits. It can be sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame and should germinate in the spring. Pre-soak stored seed for 24 hours in warm water and then sow in a greenhouse in early spring. The seed can also be sown in an outdoor seedbed in late spring. Germination should take place in the first spring, though it can sometimes be delayed for another 12 months. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer. Plants are very slow from seed and can take up to 20 years to come into flower. Basal cuttings of side-shoots in early to mid summer in a frame. Take the cuttings as soon as the new growth has hardened sufficiently, each cutting should have 2 - 3 leaves. It can also help to remove a shallow slice of bark from the bottom 15mm of the cutting to expose extra cambium, since this will encourage more callusing and better rooting. When kept in a mist frame with a bottom heat of 27 - 30C, they will root within 4 weeks and produce well-established plants by the autumn. Layering in spring. Simply lay any convenient long shoot along the ground and cover it with a shallow layer of soil. The shoot will readily produce roots at intervals along the stem. When these are well formed, the shoot can be divided up into a number of plants. These should be potted up and kept in a lightly shaded position in a greenhouse until well established and can then be planted out as required. Division of suckers in the winter. If growing named varieties, it is of course necessary to ensure they are growing on their own roots if the suckers are to be true to type.

Cultivation of the herb:

Clambering over cliffs and trees on woodland edges at low altitudes in W. China.

Known hazards of Wisteria sinensis:

The seed of all members of this genus is poisonous. The bark contains a glycoside and a resin that are both poisonous. The seed and seedpod contains a resin and a glycoside called wisterin. They have caused poisoning in children of many countries, producing mild to severe gastro-enteritis.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.