VIRGIN'S BOWER VIRGINIA CLEMATIS TRAVELLER'S JOY OLD MAN'S





BEARD

(Clematis Virginiana) Crowfoot family



Flowers - White and greenish, about 1 in. across or less, in

loose clusters from the axils. Calyx of 4 or 5 petal-like sepals;

no petals; stamens and pistils numerous, of indefinite number;

the staminate and pistillate flowers on separate plants; the

styles feathery, and over 1 in. long in fruit. Stem: Climbing,

slightly woody. Leaves: Opposite, slender petioled, divided into

3 pointed and widely toothed or lobed leaflets.

Preferred Habitat - Climbing over woodland borders, thickets,

roadside shrubbery, fences, and walls; rich, moist soil.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Georgia and Kansas northward less common beyond

the Canadian border.



Fleecy white clusters of wild clematis, festooning woodland and

roadside thickets, vary so much in size and attractiveness that

one cannot but investigate the reason. Examination shows that

comparatively few of the flowers are perfect, that is, few

contain both stamens and pistils; the great majority are either

male - the more showy ones - or female - the ones so conspicuous

in fruit - and, like Quakers in meeting, the sexes are divided.

The plant that bears staminate blossoms produces none that are

pistillate, and vice versa - another marvelous protection against

that horror of the floral race, self-fertilization, and a case of

absolute dependence on insect help to perpetuate the race. Since

the clematis blooms while insect life is at its height, and after

most, if not all, of the Ranunculaceae have withdrawn from the

competition for trade; moreover, since its white color, so

conspicuous in shady retreats, and its accessible nectar attract

hosts of flies and the small, short-tongued bees chiefly, that

are compelled to work for it by transferring pollen while they

feed, it goes without saying that the vine is a winner in life's

race.



Charles Darwin, who made so many interesting studies of the power

of movement in various plants, devoted special attention to the

clematis clan, of which about one hundred species exist but,

alas! none to our traveller's joy, that flings out the right hand

of good fellowship to every twig within reach, winds about the

sapling in brotherly embrace, drapes a festoon of flowers from

shrub to shrub, hooks even its sensitive leafstalks over any

available support as it clambers and riots on its lovely way. By

rubbing the footstalk of a young leaf with a twig a few times on

any side, Darwin found a clematis leaf would bend to that side in

the course of a few hours, but return to the straight again if

nothing remained on which to hook itself. "To show how sensitive

the young petioles are," he wrote, "I may mention that I just

touched the undersides of two with a little watercolor which,

when dry, formed an excessively thin and minute crust but this

sufficed in twenty-four hours to cause both to bend downwards."



In early autumn, when the long, silvery, decorative plumes

attached to a ball of seeds form feathery, hoary masses even more

fascinating than the flower clusters, the name of old man's beard

is most suggestive. These seeds never open, but, when ripe, each

is borne on the autumn gales, to sink into the first moist,

springy resting place.



The English counterpart of our virgin's bower is fragrant.





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