Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Clematis Sp. - Virgin's bower

Family: Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)  [E-flora]

"Plant ± woody vine; occasionally dioecious. Leaf: generally 1–2-pinnate, cauline, opposite; petiole generally tendril-like; leaflets ovate to lanceolate, generally irregularly 2–3-lobed or coarsely toothed, occasionally entire. Inflorescence: 1-flowered to panicle, axillary [terminal]. Flower: unisexual; sepals generally 4, free, petal-like, white to cream [brightly colored]; petals 0; stamens many, free; pistils 5–many. Fruit: achene, each generally with elongate, feathery style.
300 species: worldwide; Clematis terniflora DC., cultivated. (Greek: twig) [Pringle 1999 Clematis 1999:12–19] Clematis drummondii Torr. & A. Gray undocumented for California." [Jepson]

1. Sepals blue to reddish purple...................................... C. occidentalis
1. Sepals bright yellow to cream or white.
2. Sepals white; flowers imperfect; the plants dioecious, plants native.....................................C. ligusticifolia
2. Sepals bright yellow or cream, if white then the flowers perfect; plants introduced.
3. Sepals bright yellow..........................................C. tanguitica
3. Sepals cream or white.....................................C. vitalba [E-flora]

Local Species;

  1. Clematis tangutica var. tangutica - Golden clematis [E-flora]
  2. Clematis vitalba - Traveler's joy [E-flora]


Clematis Sp.

Clematis tangutica - Golden clematis

Subtaxa Present in B.C.

"General: Perennial vine; stems climbing or trailing on the ground, to 3 m long, sparsely soft-hairy when young." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Dry to mesic roadsides and disturbed areas in the lowland, steppe and montane zones; rare garden escape throughout BC; introduced from NW China, Mongolia and India." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Exotic [E-flora]


Clematis vitalba - Traveler's joy

"Clematis vitalba is a deciduous Climber growing to 15 m (49ft) by 15 m (49ft) at a fast rate. It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Oct to January. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]

"Characteristics: The flowers have a slight scent resembling white thorn. The plant is poisonous if ingested in large amounts." [PDR]

"General: Perennial woody vine; stems climbing, to 12 m long, grooved, sparsely hairy." [IFBC-E-flora]

"Habitat / Range Mesic to dry roadsides and disturbed areas in the lowland zone; infrequent garden escape on SE Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and adjacent mainland; introduced from Eurasia and N Africa." [IFBC-E-flora]

Status: Exotic [E-flora]

"Additional Notes Clematis vitalba is considered an emerging invasive species by the Greater Vancouver Invasive Plant Council (2009). An emerging invasive is defined by them as: currently found in isolated, sparse populations but are rapidly expanding their range within the region." [E-flora]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses


Cultivation & Propagation

"Prefers a deep moist soil with its roots in the shade[11, 200]. Dislikes poorly-drained heavy clay soils, but grows well in clay if grit is added for drainage[11, 200]. Dislikes light sandy soils[11]. Does well on chalk[1]. Dislikes acid soils below a pH of 6.0[186]. Succeeds in acid as well as alkaline soils[200]. Plants are hardy to about -18oc[202]. A twining plant[182]. The leafstalks wrap themselves around twigs and branches for support. When a side of the stalk touches an object, the growth on that side slows down whilst the other side grows at its normal rate - this causes the leaf stalk to entwine the object it is touching[186, 212]. It is capable of growing 2 metres in a year and can easily smother small trees and shrubs[186]. Another report says that it can grow 5 metres in a year[202]. When planting out, in order to avoid the disease 'clematis wilt', it is best to plant the rootball about 8cm deeper in the soil. This will also serve to build up a good root crown of growth buds[200]. The flowers are almond-scented[202]. They are produced on the current season's growth[219]. The plant is very amenable to pruning and can be cut back severely if required. This is best done in early spring[202]. A greedy plant, inhibiting growth of nearby plants, especially legumes[54]. Plants seem to be immune to the predations of rabbits[233]. This species is notably resistant to honey fungus[88, 200]." [PFAF]

"Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame[164, 200]. Sow stored seed as soon as it is obtained in a cold frame. Pre-soak the seed for 12 hours in warm water and remove as much of the tail and outer coat as possible[164]. A period of cold stratification is beneficial[164]. The seed germinates in 1 - 9 months or more at 20oc[164]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a cold frame for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, taken between nodes, July/August in a frame[1]. Internodal cuttings of soft to semi-ripe wood, late spring in sandy soil in a frame. Layering of old stems in late winter or early spring[200]. Layering of current seasons growth in early summer[200]." [PFAF]


  2. [E-flora] Clematis vitalba, In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2013. E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Plants of British Columbia []. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. Accessed: 5/18/2014 & April 28, 2021
  3. [Herbs2000] Clematis vitalba, Accessed May 18, 2014
  4. [PFAF], Accessed April 2, 2015

Uses of Other Clematis Sp;

"Other species of clematis have the same acrid properties [as C. recta]; among these C. flammula L., or sweet-scented virgin's bower, which, though a native of Europe, is cultivated in our gardens, C. vitalba L., or traveller's joy, also a native of Europe, and several indigenous species, of which C. virginiana L., or common virgin's bower, C. viorna L., or leather flower, and C. crispa L. have been used as substitutes for C. recta L. All these are climbing plants. Rochebrune (Toxical. Africaine. i) affirms that he has found in C. flammula L. an alkaloid, clematine, two milligrammes of which will produce in the guinea-pig copious and frequent urination, general tremors, great disturbance of respiration, feeble-ness and intermittency of the heart beat, followed in seven minutes by convulsions ending in coma and death." [Remington USD20]

"Clematis brachiata Thunb. (Ranunculaceae). traveler’s joy.
Smoke from the burning of leaves was used in Botswana to treat blood problems due to itchy sores (Gelfand et al. 1985). Fresh leaves were smoked in Venda, South Africa, to treat headaches (Arnold and Gulumian 1984)." [UAPDS]

"Clematis denticulata Vell. (Ranunculaceae). cabelo del angelo.
The Izoceño-Guaraní of Bolivia burned the aerial parts of this species over fire and inhaled the smoke to treat malaria (Bourdy et al. 2004)." [UAPDS]
"Clematis flammula L. (Ranunculaceae). fragrant clematis.
In Italy, the leaves and buds of this and other Clematis species were smoked as a tobacco (Nicotiana spp.) substitute (Leporatti and Ivancheva 2003)." [UAPDS]

Clematic recta - Ground virgin’s bower.

"Clematopsis scabiosifolia Hutch. (Ranunculaceae). shock headed Peter.
The roots of this species were burned in conjunction with others to treat tuberculosis in northern and eastern Mozambique (Verzár and Petri 1987). The patient dried the plant parts and placed the mixture on glowing coals. The patient was then covered with a blanket and forced to inhale the smoke. The other species in the mixture were Aspilia mossambicensis (Oliv.) Willd., Clerodendron discolor Becc., Helichrysum kirkii Oliv. & Hiern., and Ozoroa reticulata (Baker f.) R. Fern & A. Fern." [UAPDS]

"Clematis simensis Fresen. (Rananculaceae). Umunkamba.
Smoke from burning leaves is reported to have analgesic properties according to the people of Burundi (Mohagheghzadeh et al. 2006).

Clematis virginiana"Effects: Supposedly induces strange dreams and hallucinations. Precautions: It may irritate the skin or, if ingested, cause a burning feeling in the mouth." [EHMEFD]


  1. [E-flora] Clematis vitalba, [Accessed: 5/18/2014 10:48:39 PM ]
  2. [Jepson] James S. Pringle & Frederick B. Essig , 2013. Clematis, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Jan 26 2015

Page last modified on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 5:06 AM