Berkeley goes wild for wisteria

The annual purple blooms are back, leaving Berkeleyans feeling woozy for wisteria.

Berkeley goes wild for wisteria
Wisteria as seen in North Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Wisteria is once again putting on its annual show in Berkeley, crawling on trellises and homes to the pleasure of Berkeleyans all across the city.

When the wisteria blossoms each year, it’s a showstopper. The vine, which comes in purple, white, and even blue varieties, is legendary in Berkeley. Landscape designer Robert Trachtenberg said that could be because some of Berkeley’s most famous architects, Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan, incorporated wisteria and other elements of garden design into their creations.

Perhaps Berkeley’s best-known wisteria-clad building is the First Church of Christ Scientist, designed by Maybeck in 1910. The building is Berkeley’s only national landmark.

But the unruly vine takes work to maintain. At the iconic wisteria home on Virginia Street, multiple ladders erected outside the building guide the vine in an elaborate labyrinth across the front and side of the house. Left unpruned, the plant has taken over multiple fences and facades in Berkeley.

Wisteria takes 10 to 20 years to flower and can live to be 100 years old. The vine grows as thick as a tree trunk. The oldest-known wisteria is a 128-year-old vine in Sierra Madre in Los Angeles County that became the subject of controversy last year when the owner pruned it back off the roof, sparking outcry from town residents.

This year, Berkeleyside sent photographer Kelly Sullivan on a two-week-long hunt to document the city’s wisteria, and reporter Ally Markovich chased down the flowering vine on multiple runs throughout Berkeley, all for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

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Wisteria as seen in Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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A close-up of wisteria as seen in North Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in North Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen at the First Church of Christ Scientist in Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in West Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in North Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in Central Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in West Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in South Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria from below as seen in Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in Central Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in North Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan
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Wisteria as seen in North Berkeley, March 2022. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

Didn’t get enough wisteria? Check out our wisteria photo stories from 2021, 2017, and 2011, the latter by Robert Trachtenberg.

Ally Markovich covers education for Berkeleyside. Email: ally@berkeleyside.org. Twitter: allymarkovich.