The Double Cone Quarterly
Window to the Wilderness
Fall Equinox 1999 || Volume II, Number 3


Chaparral Virgin's Bower, Pipe-Stem Virgin's Bower
Clematis lasiantha Nuttall

by David Rogers © 1999

Clematis lasiantha in flower.
Photograph by the author, © 1999

These showy-flowered vines, which clamber through the branches of shrubs, are scattered in the chaparral habitats of the Santa Lucia Mountains. The semi-woody branches can be up to 16 feet long, and the opposite leaves are pinnately divided into three generally ovate and variously toothed or lobed leaflets about 2 to 5 cm. long. The petioles, which are about 2 to 5 cm. long, commonly coil around the branches and stems of supporting plants. The flowers are produced singularly or in twos or threes on long axillary peduncles about 4 to 12 cm. long, and what appear to be four white petals about 1 to 2.5 cm. long are actually calyx lobes (sepals). In the center of the flowers are clusters of 50 to 100 yellowish-white stamens, staminodes or pistils, which are up to 13 mm. long. The flowers are highly ornate even when in fruit, for attached to each of the numerous akenes (seeds) is a plume-like style about 2.5 to 4 cm. long, which, collectively, form ball-like clusters. This California Floristic Province endemic occurs in the Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada Foothills, Transverse and Peninsular Ranges, from Shasta County to Northern Baja California, and blooms from March to June.

Clematis lasiantha with maturing flowers.
Photograph by the author, © 1999

Clematis lasiantha with fully mature flowers.

This Charles Webber photograph is from the Virtual Library Project of U. C. Berkeley, and belongs to the California Academy of Sciences.

The only other Clematis species that occurs in the Santa Lucia Mountains is C. ligusticifolia, Yerba de Chivato or Western Virgin's Bower. These small-flowered and semi-woody vines tend to form thickets along shady streambanks, and the stems, which can be up to 50 feet long, often climb high into the branches of trees. Occasionally this species is found in deeply shady habitats that become dry during the summer months, but such plants are much smaller than those of riparian habitats. The genus Clematis is comprised of about 250 species, and belongs to the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae).

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