Virgin's bower (Clematis virginiana), with its charming, old-fashioned name, is a close cousin to the familiar garden clematis. It most closely resembles sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora or sometimes mistakenly called C. paniculata) but that species is from Japan and is a substantially larger and more aggressive vining plant. A very common resident of Beverly Shores, there is every chance that you have walked by virgin’s bower in various stages of growth and not realized it.
Virgin’s bower shows off clusters of up to 30 lightly fragrant one-quarter to one-half inch white flowers in late summer. While there are separate plants with male and female flowers, the good news is that both sexes have showy white flowers. The female flowers have the advantage of producing silver colored feathery plumes containing seeds. These plumes appear in late fall after blooming and persist for several weeks. Virgin’s bower also has attractive compound leaves, each with three leaflets. As an additional benefit, the leaves contain toxins that ward off deer.
Virgin’s bower can grow up to 20 feet if given the right conditions and a place to climb. It is also quite happy to clamber over shrubs, dead branches, or other objects. It does best in part sun but grows in just about any amount of light, though in heavy shade or full sun it is unlikely to produce flowers. Virgin’s bower also seem to tolerate our dryish, sandy soils or moister soils as evidenced by its ubiquity in town.
Virgin’s bower is sold by a considerable number of native plant nurseries as well as some specialty and large conventional nurseries. But look carefully at the name, particularly the scientific name, to be sure you are getting Clematis virginiana.
If you have questions about virgin;s bower or other native or non-native plants, don’t hesitate to contact Terry Bonace (firstname.lastname@example.org), Candice Smith (email@example.com), or Bill Schaudt (firstname.lastname@example.org) for assistance. Also please explore our website, www.bserg.org, for further information on invasive plants and native replacements.