March 17, 2014

Photo Essay: Beware the World's Largest Flowering Plant

It's not often that I would devote an entire post to one plant.

But this is no ordinary plant.

It's a flowering, monstrous, house-crushing plant.

Designated the largest flowering plant in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records...

...the wistaria (a.k.a. wisteria) plant of Sierra Madre grew so fast and so much that it devoured its owners' house in the 1930s.

The house has been rebuilt, and somehow, the current owners manage to keep it under control enough to keep living there...

....and open it up to annual tours.

The canopy over the backyard is so thick, it's dark under there...

...though it hasn't encompassed the entire property...yet.

The vibrant, flowering parts are the newer offshoots, held up by metal supports.

They've grown out of the original plant, their crawling vines having traveled across the property and taken root elsewhere.

At over 250 tons, covering more than one acre — with branches that grow to 500 feet and grow as quickly as one inch per hour —

...this thing is a behemoth unlike any other.

Nicknamed The Vine, this wisteria is of the Chinese lavender variety...

...originally purchased for 75 cents and planted in 1894.

Its oldest section forms a wall-like structure of intertwined branches by the back of the house...

...where the blossoms are a bit more feeble.

Annual tours — which have evolved into full-blown festivals — have been conducted since 1918.

As hungry as the younger branches are, with their robust blossoms, all people really want to see is the oldest part, which, in comparison, doesn't seem so impressive.

The Vine has encroached on the neighbors' houses as well, but no one seems to mind. It's a horticultural marvel that feels a bit dastardly, a little bit evil, not quite of this earth, but its current owners have managed to prune and trim it to keep it under control — for now.

But one day, as its woody climbing bones twist around whatever can support it, hysteria may ensue. It can overtake and choke out other native plant species, but what else? Maybe people too.

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