Clematis glaucophylla is one of my favorite species of clematis for the garden, though it can be rather tall reaching 3 to 5 meters in height. Its most distinctive feature is the blue-green leaves which are glabrous on both sides and glaucous on the underside. It is known by the common name White Leaf Leather Flower. The leaves also have prominent veins, but are not reticulate. This feature sets it apart from the other species of clematis in the subgenus Viorna. The eastern North American viornas have been studied intensely by Dr. Dwayne Estes at Austin Peay State University. He is currently revising the taxonomy of the subgenus Viorna and will be introducing as many as nine new species. Dr. Estes states, however, that C. glaucophylla is undeniably a species which stands on its own thus changing what Ralph Erickson had written in the Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden that he thought there was a possibility of intergradation between C. glaucophylla and C. viorna, Dr. Estes' research shows that this has not occurred. It is most closely related to C. versicolor which has reticulate leaves and C. addisonii which has an erect not vine growth habit.
I enjoy growing C. glaucophylla through Hydrangea macrophylla. As the hydrangea is covered in big blowsy blue blooms, C. glaucophylla punctuates the shrub with bright pink slender trumpets, which perch horizontally among the blossoms. These colorful trumpets beckon all the surrounding hummingbirds to come and share their delicious nectar. The flowers are ovoid with four glabrous cherry pink lanceolate, ribbed sepals which slightly recurve into a soft cream pointed tip. The margins are slightly downy. C. glaucophylla flowers arise from the axil singularly or up to three with a bract about one third up from the base of the peduncle. C. glaucophylla growing through Hydrangea macrophylla
The seed heads (that on the left is an unripe example) are attractive balls with long brownish plumose tails. The lower leaves are pinnate with the leaflets three lobed ending with a filiform tendril. The leaves near the flowers tend to be simple and cordate. The stem will also be glabrous as are the sepals and leaves. Unripe seedhead of C. glaucophylla
C. glaucophylla is described in the horticultural literature as having a wider distribution in the southeastern United States than is recognized today. It is thought that the use of older herbarium specimens may have led to the over identification of the distribution. It is most likely to occur only in the five states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma. C. glaucophylla photographed in the wild by Alan Cressler
C. glaucophylla is described in the horticultural literature as having a wider distribution in the southeastern United States than is recognized today. It is thought that the use of older herbarium specimens may have led to the over identification of the distribution. It is most likely to occur only in the five states of Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
In Georgia two communities still exist on the original site where John K. Small first identified it in 1897. It is amazing that such small communities have been able to survive over all these years. The Chickamauga Battlefield is a protected site, where the Southern troops were victorious over the Northern troops in the War Between the States. One of the communities is approximately ten feet off the small roadway. It sprawls along with other herbaceous perennials along a deep gully. C. glaucophylla blends in with the surrounding vegetation but after close scrutiny the telltale blue-green leaves become apparent. The second community is more like the typical habitat that is described in the literature, as a calcareous dry forest located in cedar glades. The characteristic native plant community will include Acer leucodrme, Carya glabra, Cercis canadensis, Juniperus virginiana, Quercus alba, Ulmus rubra, Rhus aromatic, Viburnum rufidulum, Delphinium tricorne, Iris cristata, Salvia urticifolia, Spigelia marilandica.
West Chickamauga Creek site of C. glaucophylla
It likes to grow in neutral to acid well drained soil with morning sun and afternoon shade in the hot humid climates of its native habitat. In the south, the heat hours enable C. glaucophylla to bloom from May thru September/October. It blooms on new growth, therefore, should be pruned hard while dormant. Although difficult to obtain, this clematis is a worthy addition to any garden.
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