Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spring Flowers: Purple Virgin's Bower

Clematis occidentalis var. occidentalis (Purple Virgin's Bower, Wild Clematis), a member of the Buttercup family, is a rare one.  It is on several states' endangered species lists, including Maryland's, and is considered extirpated in Ohio and Delaware.  It is not on Virginia's endangered species list, but it in a report on rare plants done by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in 2004, C. occidentalis is listed in the second rarest category:  only found at between 6 and 20 sites statewide or some other factor that makes it especially vulnerable to extinction in the state.

C. occidentalis is a vine, with large four-petaled purple flowers.  The vines and the flowers are covered in fine hairs and the vines climb by twisting the leaf stalks around other vegetation or structures.  It grows in rocky, dry woods.  It flowers in the spring and later in the summer, it produces a feathery fruit.  The entire plant, flower, fruit, and roots are poisonous and the oil on the leaves can cause skin irritation.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 C. occidentalis with an ant crawling on the flower.
 A more open example of the flower.
 Several flowers on a vine trailing up a tree.
One of the leaves.

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