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Idaho Mountain Wildflowers

Buttercup Family, Ranunculaceae (continued)

Clematis, Clematis spp.

The Greek word klematis referred in the distant past to a periwinkle (Vinca sp.) and later was applied to this genus.  Do you say "clematis" as "KLEM-atiss" or "klem-AH-tiss"? Take your choice: either  pronounciation is acceptable.

Western virgin’s bower, Clematis occidentalis (Hornem.) DC. (left). The western virgin’s bower is a late spring-blooming, woody, climbing vine that grows in the moist open shade of  montane forests. The flowers are apetalous and the plants' purple sepals stand out in the subdued light of their surroundings. Three-parted leaves with toothed, heart-shaped leaflets are a clue that it is in the buttercup family. A similar species that differs only in the shape of its leaves, Clematis columbiana (Nutt.) Torr. & Gray, grows in the south-eastern part of Idaho.

Vase-flower, Clematis hirsutissima Pursh (lef, tright) known also as the "vase-flower," “sugar-bowl,” “leather-flower” and “hairy (hirsutissimma) clematis,” could not be mistaken for any other. Four purple sepals are joined for much of their length to form a furry “vase” that gives the flower one of its common names. It is a herbaceous (non-woody) soft-stemmed, perennial plant, whose flowers are borne on a single stem that arises from a profusion of frizzy leaves divided into narrow leaflets. The fruit (right) is "plumose" ; the plume made up of long styles. Vase-flowers prefer moist ground where they bloom from mid spring to early summer. The plant was unknown to science until Lewis and Clark collected it in on May 27, 1806, near their encampment on the Clearwater River near today’s Kamiah, Idaho.

Western clematis, Clematis ligusticifolia Nutt. (left, right). The western clematis prefers dry, open ground where it forms aggressive, rapidly spreading vines that cover neighboring trees, shrubs and fences. The plants form masses of white blossoms, followed by densely hairy fruiting bodies (seen to a lesser extent in other members of the genus). In this plant the fruiting bodies often coalesce to cover the plant. The western clematis is sometimes used as an ornamental, but it tends to spread further and faster than one might wish. The species name ligusticifolia apparently refers to a perceived similarity between this plant’s leaves and those of a species of Ligusticum in the parsley family (Apiaceae).

Western meadowrue, Thalictrum occidentale A. Gray. Thalictrums are found throughout the United States and Canada, but this species occurs only in the West. Its leaves are three-lobed and their are separate male and female plants. Male plants (left) are distinguished by fringe-like dependent anthers. Female plants (right) have wispy pinkish petals. Meadowrues provide ground-cover in shady woods, and are sometimes grown for that purpose in shaded gardens. Thaliktron was used by Dioscorides for a Greek plant, and later became attached to this genus. True rue is an unrelated evergreen shrub, Ruta graveolens, with an unpleasant aromatic odor. Our plants have a similar odor, so they became “meadowrues.” Western meadow-rue was first collected by the explorer Captain John Charles Frémont (1830-1890) in Wyoming in 1843.

False bugbane, Trautvetteria carolinensis (Walter) Vail (left, right)   The false bugbane, as its scientific name suggests, also grows in the southeastern United States. It prefers shaded streambanks and moist forests where the ground is often covered with their large maple-leaf shaped leaves. The flowers are small and gathered into clusters. The generic name, Trautvettaria, honors Russian botanist Ernest Rudolf van Trautvetter (1809-1889). Our plant resembles the true bugbane, a related European ornamental, Cimicifuga foetida L. used in the past as an insect repellant. The trautvettaria shown here was photographed in the DeVoto Grove, a few miles west of the Lolo Pass summit. The tree is one of the grove’s magnificent western red cedars, Thuja plicata.

Globeflower, Trollius albiflorus (A. Gray) Rydb. (left). The name Trollius was derived from the Swiss-German name trollblume for a closely related globeflower Trollius laxus. The latter is a circumboreal Eurasian plant: our species is possibly a variant of that plant. Globeflowers bloom very early on south facing slopes as winter turns into spring, often while the ground is still mostly snow-covered. Its basal leaves are palmately lobed and toothed, although they are usually not out when the flowers open.

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