Driving along a country road here in Pennsylvania you’re likely to see many a roadside weed. Weeds like Queen Anne’s Lace or wild carrot, chicory and goldenrods are flowering everywhere. These weeds are wildflowers to me, but to others they are nothing more than weeds in a field.
My definition of a weed is a plant that grows where you don’t want it to grow. So, by definition, a rose bush could be a weed. These roadside “weeds” are growing right where they’re supposed to grow.
A new wildflower for me is a pretty, four-petaled white blossom called Virgin’s Bower. It’s a vine that grows alongside of Jewelweed, New York Ironweed, Joe-Pye weeds, brambles and thistles.
Virgin’s Bower flowering along a country road in Pennsylvania.
Compound leaves of Virgin’s Bower, Clematis virginiana, are strongly toothed, in threes and may have purple stems.
Classified as a non-woody vine Virgin’s Bower climbs over brush and, in sunny moist locations, it practically coats roadside vegetation with clusters of white flowers.
Virgin’s Bower grows like a vine over and on top of other vegetation.
Flowers consist of 4 white, petal-like sepals and many white stamens in clusters in the leaf axils.
Young flowers of Virgin’s Bower just starting to open up.
As with most members of the Buttercup family, Ranunculaceae, Virgin’s Bower contains toxic compounds. Be careful handling Virgin’s Bower as contact can be highly irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Even though the whole plant was used in liniments in the past, some people are sensitive to it. Consuming it may produce upper and lower gastrointestinal upsets and even convulsions.
Anyone having Clematis plants in their garden may recognize the fruit of this native clematis species. Virgin’s Bower fruit has the creative name of ‘Old Man’s Beard’ due to the scraggly appearance of gray, feathery plumes which are attached to the seeds of the female plant.
What do the seeds of the male plant look like? How can you tell the female plants from the male plants at other times of the year?
Keep observing and we’ll learn about it – all in due time, My Pretty!