The Bean Trees

Wisteria Vines (Bean Trees) and Plants Symbol Analysis

Wisteria Vines (Bean Trees) and Plants Symbol Icon

All plants are symbolically important in the novel, as the well-being of nature matches the well-being of the characters. Taylor is surprised to find an abundance of plants in the desert, just as she is surprised at the quality of her new life in Tucson. Taylor also sees flowers, like the night-blooming cereus flower, as good omens for her future. When she first starts talking, the only words Turtle speaks refer to vegetables, calling to mind the gardens in Tucson that are able to bridge the gap between man-made buildings and the wild bramble of nature.

Yet wisteria vines play a special symbolic role in their relation to Turtle’s character development. Wisteria vines (or “bean trees,” as Turtle calls them) are ugly looking plants at first, just as Turtle started the novel in a comatose, abused state. Yet the wisteria vines are also able to grow in poor soil where no other plants thrive. Turtle too comes back from her unfortunate infancy to become a vibrant little girl. At the end of the novel, Taylor learns that wisteria vines grow thanks to insects called rhizobia that create fertilizer for the plant. This mirrors the way that Turtle needed the support system of Taylor and their makeshift family in Tucson in order to grow.

Wisteria Vines (Bean Trees) and Plants Quotes in The Bean Trees

The The Bean Trees quotes below all refer to the symbol of Wisteria Vines (Bean Trees) and Plants. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the HarperTorch edition of The Bean Trees published in 1998.
Chapter 17 Quotes

The wisteria vines on their own would just barely get by, is how I explained it to Turtle, but put them together with rhizobia and they make miracles.

Related Characters: Taylor Greer (Marietta Greer) (speaker), Turtle (April)
Related Symbols: Wisteria Vines (Bean Trees) and Plants
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Wisteria Vines (Bean Trees) and Plants Symbol Timeline in The Bean Trees

The timeline below shows where the symbol Wisteria Vines (Bean Trees) and Plants appears in The Bean Trees. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The One to Get Away
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...all the other, richer kids in her class. Marietta describes the bright colors of the flowers on their front porch, explaining that she and her mother both like to wear these... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
...that her 1/8 blood rights won’t amount to much. Furthermore, Taylor sees the lack of trees in the area as a special offense to the Cherokee religion, which believes that trees... (full context)
Chapter 3: Jesus Is Lord Used Tires
Nature Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
...her “peculiar resume” from the odd jobs she had in Kentucky, including picking bugs off bean vines. Mattie laughs and goes to show Taylor the bean vines she has in a... (full context)
Chapter 4: Tug Fork Water
Nature Theme Icon
...bus stop to her house, she stops at Bobby Bingo’s truck to look at the vegetables he is selling. His produce is better and cheaper than the grocery store, and Lou... (full context)
Chapter 6: Valentine’s Day
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
The first frost of winter comes on Valentine’s Day and all of Mattie’s plants start to die. Taylor is saddened by this but Mattie is unfazed. Mattie says that... (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...a tractor tire in the shop, then pours the can of water out on Mattie’s bean plants. As Taylor wonders why the bean plants didn’t die in the frost as the... (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
...soup she has made. Taylor imagines Lou Ann trying to find recipes that use the vegetables that Taylor brings home from Mattie’s garden and laments the fact that Lou Ann is... (full context)
Chapter 7: How They Eat in Heaven
Nature Theme Icon
...unseasonably warm again after the one frost on Valentine’s Day. Mattie says that the summer wildflowers blooming before Easter is a sign from the Lord that they all need to go... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...it happens, neither Lou Ann nor Taylor can make sense of Turtle’s true first word: Bean. (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Turtle speaks her first word, bean, while she and Taylor are helping Mattie in the garden. Taylor tries to explain the... (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Mattie suggests that Taylor take some beans home for Turtle to play with, and Taylor agrees (though she worries what Lou Ann... (full context)
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...sweet and sour chicken for the party, though she had originally planned to make navy bean soup in honor of Turtle’s first word. By now, Turtle has said so many new... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Miracle of Dog Doo Park
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...if her mother remarried. Lou Ann suggests that her mother should marry Bobby Bingo, the vegetable seller, so that Bobby and Turtle can talk vegetables all day. (full context)
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...winter, comparing it to the Bible story of striking water out of a rock. These flowers out of bare dirt are the Miracle of Dog Doo Park. (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
...week. Turtle calls them Poppy and Parsnip, keeping up her trend of speaking solely in vegetables. Turtle greets Edna as “Ma Poppy,” just as she adds ‘ma’ to the beginning of... (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
Leaving Turtle to page through a magazine looking for pictures of veggies, Taylor goes to tell the nurse that she can’t answer the questions about Turtle’s medical... (full context)
Feminism and Solidarity Among Women Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Turtle interrupts Lou Ann and Taylor’s conversation to present Taylor a peanut she has dug out of the ground. Taylor tells Turtle the name for peanuts and... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Uninterested in Lou Ann and Taylor’s conversation, Turtle delightedly feeds peanuts to a duck. Taylor leans back and listens to bird song in the trees, a... (full context)
Chapter 10: The Bean Trees
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Turtle interrupts their conversation to call the Wisteria vinesbean trees.” Taylor looks again and realizes that the wisteria seeds do look like bean trees. (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...starts to wonder why she really came. Taylor glances out the window at Lee Sing’s garden, then tells Esperanza that she has a beautiful name because it means hope in Spanish.... (full context)
Chapter 12: Into the Terrible Night
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...desert, though she is not very good at remembering the names of the foreign, thorny plants that thrive in this arid land. Mattie reminds Taylor that all of the plants that... (full context)
Chapter 13: Night-Blooming Cereus
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...had been touched, but Taylor knows that Turtle is just treating the dolls like the plants she loves. Turtle and Taylor go to see Cynthia every Monday and Thursday, a harder... (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...finds Lou Ann and the kids at the park. Turtle is playing at making a garden, and Lou Ann is forcefully trying to stop Dwayne Ray from eating a purple jelly... (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
...Edna have something to show the kids. On their porch are a bouquet of silvery-white flowers called night-blooming cereus. These flowers only open one night a year. Taylor had earlier noticed... (full context)
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Disaster and Survival Theme Icon
Turtle walks up to one of the cereus flowers, which is as big as her head. Taylor kneels beside her and tells Turtle... (full context)
Nature Theme Icon
Belonging and Homeland Theme Icon
The cereus flower seems to bode good weather for travel, as Taylor and Turtle go to meet... (full context)
Chapter 17: Rhizobia
Family and Motherhood Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
Turtle finds a picture of the wisteria vines she calls bean trees. The book says that wisteria vines actually thrive in poor soil thanks to a... (full context)