Trouble identifying Marin’s Clematis species!

by Doreen Smith

We have two native Clematis species in Marin, the spring- flowering chaparral vine C. lasiantha, pipe-stems and the late summer-flowering creekside, climber C. ligusticifolia, virgins bower. The keys to Clematis in the Jepson Manual 2012 and Marin Flora 2007 edition are both incomplete, failing to include Clematis vitalba which is growing as wild in parts of S. Marin. Quite recently a closer look by botanists at Muir Woods discovered that masses of what had been called Clematis ligusticifolia, a dioecious native species, were not the species growing there but a similar-looking, bisexual European introduction, Clematis vitalba, aka “travelers joy”. Even CNPS native plant sales had been unknowingly spreading the non-native, easy to grow as a clone from hardwood cuttings. True Clematis ligusticifolia is apparently uncommon in Marin County. A few plants of this vine grow along Lagunitas Creek east of Pt. Reyes Station. Unfortunately, roadside specimens get severely cut back by highway maintenance in August or September when peak flowering occurs.

Photos by Vernon and Doreen Smith

Photo by Vernon Smith

Clematis ligusticifolia – (male creekside virgin’s- bower)


Clematis ligusticifolia – (female creekside virgin’s- bower)


Clematis vitalba – (Old Man’s Beard, traveller’s Joy)