CROWFOOT FAMILY - Ranunculaceae: Virgin's Bower; Virginia Clematis; Traveller's Joy; Old Man's Beard

Clematis virginiana

Flowers--White and greenish, about 1 in. across or less, in loose clusters from the axils. Calyx of 4 or 5 petal-like sepals; no petals; stamens and pistils numerous, of indefinite number; the staminate and pistillate flowers on separate plants; the styles feathery, and more than 1 in. long in fruit. Stem: Climbing, slightly woody. Leaves: Opposite, slender petioled, divided into 3 pointed and 2 widely toothed or lobed leaflets.

Preferred Habitat--Climbing over woodland borders, thickets, roadside shrubbery, fences, and walls; rich, moist soil.

Flowering Season--July-September.

Distribution--Georgia and Kansas northward; less common beyond the Canadian border.

Charles Darwin, who made so many interesting studies of the power of movement in various plants, devoted special attention to the clematis clan, of which about one hundred species exist; but, alas! none to our traveller's joy, that flings out the right hand of good fellowship to every twig within reach, winds about the sapling in brotherly embrace, drapes a festoon of flowers from shrub to shrub, hooks even its sensitive leafstalks over any available support as it clambers and riots on its lovely way. By rubbing the footstalk of a young leaf with a twig a few times on any side, Darwin found a clematis leaf would bend to that side in the course of a few hours, but return to the straight again if nothing remained on which to hook itself.

In early autumn, when the long, silvery, decorative plumes attached to a ball of seeds form feathery, hoary masses even more fascinating than the flower clusters, the name of old man's beard is most suggestive. These seeds never open, but, when ripe, each is borne on the autumn gales, to sink into the first moist, springy resting place.