In June when it is high summer in the river-bottom country, there blooms a strange flower along fences and in tangles on slopes. Leather-flower is a clematis and is one of the typical flowers of the river lowlands of Illinois.
Clematis pitcheri T. &. G.
Bell-shaped, the flower is entirely unlike the usual garden clematis which is often bright purple with four to six spreading petals, or is small and white in a great fragrant mass in autumn. The wild Illinois clematis is bell-shaped and thick and stout, on short, stiff stems. The bell shades from a bright rose-purple with a silvery glint to pale silvery green where the hell splits into lour spreading petal divisions. Inside, the flower is completely filled with stamens. The fruits are at the end of long curving "tails*' covered with short silky hairs.
Leather-flower grows as a low, sprawling vine with a fibrous stem and many side branches bearing tapered or lobed, stiff leaves. It is so unlike any other Illinois wild flower that attention i- immediately attracted to it- strange, thick, purple and green bells and its compact and interesting vine. It is actually a western wild flower whose eastern boundary is Indiana. It goes west into Nebraska and south to Texas, but in Illinois it brings a flavor of the southwest to the steamy, weedy, river bottoms when June has come and midsummer is at hand.
The Virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana) is covered with white blossoms as its vines twine over fences and shrubs in moist woods or along streams in duly and August. The opposite leaves are three-parted and their long petioles twine about their supports. Later in the summer the long leathery styles give the fruit a very striking appearance. This attractive climber is limited to the northern half of the state.