The Purple Clematis is much less common than the white-flowered Virginia Virgin's Bower, and grows sparingly in rocky places in the more hilly country, from Hudson Bay to Manitoba, and southward to Virginia and Minnesota, during May and June. The large, prominent, solitary flowers are light purple or purplish blue in colour, and measure from two to four inches broad when expanded. The four long, tapering-oval, strongly veined, petal-like sepals are thin, translucent and pointed. Both sides are very downy or silky along the margins and veins. They are borne singly on long stems from the end of the vine, and from the axils or joints of the leaf stems. The true petals are very small, and spatulate or spoon-shaped. The many stamens are clustered in the centre, and are greenish white in colour. The ones forming the outer row are broadened. The flower is very showy, and is generally cup-shaped, with the ends of the sepals curved inward, but it often opens flat. The pistils are long, and ripen with long brownish-gray plumes. The leaf is similar to the Virginia Virgin's Bower, but rather smaller, and has three leaflets with either irregularly cut margins, or toothless, and slightly heart-shaped at the base. The texture is thin, and shows the network of veins plainly. The surface is slightly downy, and the stem is tinged with purple. The stiff, dried leaf stems of the previous season are often found still attached to the stalk among the new foliage. The stalk is smooth, woody, and brittle. It is a trailing plant, or semi-climbing in habit. If you are fortunate enough to find this magnificent flower it is well not to molest it nor to disclose its whereabouts, but, instead, cherish its discovery with secrecy and number it among your choicest and rarest wild flowers as one that demands your protection.
The Marsh Clematis, C. crispa, is our most beautiful Southern species, and bears large, fragrant, solitary, nodding, and bell-shaped flowers. They are bluish purple, and from three-quarters to an inch and a half long, with the petal-like sepals of thin texture, and widely spreading and backward curved from the opening of the cup which they form. Their broad margins are prettily crimped and wavy. The long tails of the seed cases are silky and less plumy than the foregoing species. The leaves are compound, and the three or more lance-shaped leaflets are generally entire or occasionally lobed and thin textured. This climbing vine grows three or four feet in length, and is found in marshes from southeastern Virginia to Florida and Texas, through May and June.
The Leather Flower, C. Virona, is found from May to August, climbing over bushes in rich soil, sometimes to the height of ten feet, from southern Pennsylvania to Ohio and West Virginia, south to Georgia and Tennessee, and also westward and northward. The solitary purple flowers are bell-shaped and nodding. They have no petals, but the four petal-like sepals measure about an inch long, and are pointed and usually slightly recurved at the apex. They are very thick and leathery. The flower is scentless. The achenes or seed cases are short, stout and flat, and have long, feathery, pale yellow plumes by which they are carried by the wind to find a favourable spot where they may germinate and grow and increase their kind. The leaves are mostly compound, and the three to seven leaflets are oval and pointed, and their margins are either entire or lobed. This plant is probably found somewhat farther north and west. There are about twenty odd species of Clematis occurring through North America.