Clematis versicolor Small

Pale Leather Flower

Clematis versicolor plant

Family - Ranunculaceae

Habit - Twining perennial forb.

Stems - Twining and climbing, to 5 m, woody toward the base, glabrous or with a few hairs at nodes, reddish-brown, branching.

Leaves - Opposite, odd-pinnately compound with 3-9 leaflets. Leaflets entire, to 6 cm long and 4.5 cm broad, usually undivided, seldom 2- or 3-lobed, glabrous, ovate to rotund, blunt at apex, usually leathery in texture, the minor veins usually forming a raised network, the upper surface green to grayish green, the undersurface pale and glaucous. Terminal leaflet twining.

Clematis versicolor leaf

Inflorescence - Flowers solitary or in groups of 2-3 from leaf axils. Peduncles subtended by a pair of foliaceous bracts. Peduncles to 10 cm long, purple, glabrous, bent at apex.

Flowers - Perfect. Perianth cylindrical to urn-shaped. Sepals 4, 15-18 mm long, erect or with only the apical 1-2 mm reflexed, purple, thickened and leathery, with membranous, crisped margins not evident, the inner and outer surface glabrous, the margins densely hairy. Stamens numerous, included. Filaments to 1.2 cm long, pubescent, creamy white. Anthers pale yellow, 0.7 mm long. Pistils densely villous for entire length, 1.6 cm long.

Clematis versicolor flowerFlower.

Clematis versicolor flowerVentral view.

Fruits - Achenes with the beak 5-6 cm long, plumose with long, spreading hairs.

Flowering - May - June.

Habitat - Forests, bluffs, ledges, glades.

Origin - Native to U.S.

Lookalikes - Clematis pitcheri, Clematis crispa, Clematis viorna.

Other info. - This plant is relatively uncommon in Missouri, mostly restricted to a few counties in the southwestern portion of the state. Its U.S. range is also quite limited, occurring mostly in five states in the lower Midwest. It is similar in appearance to the other Clematis species having urn-shaped flowers. It is distinguished from the others by its glaucous leaves.

C. versicolor is a striking plant and is being used in cultivation. It seems to prefer locations with a shady northern or eastern exposure.

Photographs taken off County Road SE K-36, McDonald County, MO., 6-3-00.


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