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Scarlet Clematis

by Valerie (June 2, 2000)
revised August 24, 2003
scarlet clematis blossom
A native wildflower, the scarlet clematis (Clematis texensis) is a medium-sized, sprawling perennial vine. It grows from large, tuberous roots, but the stems are slender and the leaves wide and delicate, sometimes being oval shaped and sometimes lobed. When the weather gets too hot and dry, the plant dies back and goes dormant.

scarlet clematis seed cluster

With enough water, however, the clematis produces its strange flowers over a long period. Each flower is about an inch long and has four "petals" which are actually sepals that are bright red and very thick, giving it one of its other names: leatherflower. The flowers are at the end of a long stem, making it look like they are floating. After pollination, the thick sepals turn brown and fall off and the seed cluster forms as a feathery ball.

I tried for several years to get the vines to grow from seed but without luck. Once the tubers were planted, though, the scarlet clematis has done very well, producing more shoots every year. Although I can't be certain if they are seedlings or just offshoots from underground, there are several small plants that seem to have appeared in our vine jungle lately.

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