Clematis (Gr. tendril), a genus of mostly climbing and highly ornamental shrubs, belonging to the natural order ranunculaceae. It is generically distinguished by having four valvate colored sepals, no petals, opposite leaves, and carpels bearing the styles as long feathery tails. It embraces more than 50 species, distributed eastward from Mexico to Japan, 9 of them being natives of North America. The flower is often odoriferous, and its color is white, yellow, violet, purple, or blue. The C. vitalba (Linn.), often called the traveller's joy, is a native of England, and is common throughout England and France, covering hedges and old walls with its ample pinnate leaves, and its panicles of white fragrant blossoms. Its leaves contain an acrid juice which irritates the skin, and were used by beggars in the middle ages to produce artificial and easily curable ulcers. The C. ffammula, the most sweel-scented of the species, resembles the preceding, but has smaller leaves and flowers, and is indigenous and most abundant in the south of France. The C. cirrhosa is an elegant evergreen, with large greenish-white flowers, and is abundant in Spain and on the Atlas mountains in Africa. The C. viticella, or blue clematis, is especially esteemed for forming trellises in gardens, and is distinguished by its beautiful purplish, bell-shaped blossoms hanging gracefully upon solitary peduncles.
The genus atragene of Linnauis, embracing one American and several Siberian and Alpine plants, is by most authors made a species of clematis. Among the American species are the C. Virginiana, or virgin's bower, having leaves with three ovate acute leaflets, numerous white flowers in panicled clusters on axillary peduncles, climbing upon shrubs along river banks, and common throughout the United States; the C. viorna, or leather flower, with a very glabrous, bell-shaped, purplish calyx, with fruit bearing very plumose tails, and found in rich soil in the middle and southern states; and the C. ochroleuca, with simple and entire leaves, silky beneath, bearing single large nodding flowers, yellowish within, with erect stem, growing about a foot high, and found rarely in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. All the species of clematis grow and blossom freely in any light soil, and they are widely esteemed in gardens for trellis-work, and for training against a wall. They may be readily propagated by layers, young cuttings, or seeds.
Virgin's Bower (Clematis Virginiana).