wild clematis defined in 1912 yearwild clematis - WILD CLEMATIS (Clematis vitalba);
wild clematis - Wild Clematis grew so thickly on one side of the narrow lane, that the hedge seemed made of it. Trailing over the low bushes the leaves hid the hawthorn and bramble, so that the hedge was covered with Clematis leaf and flower. The innumerable pale flowers gave out a faint odour and coloured the sides of the highway.... No care or art could have led it over the branches in so graceful a manner; the lane was festooned for the triumphal progress of the wagons laden with corn."
Thus does Richard Jefferies describe "Clematis Lane." And the Clematis seems always associated with the highways of man; it is the "Traveller's Joy" - Gerard's name for it - "decking and adorning waies and hedges where people travel!." The vocation to bloom and die unseen has no attraction for it, and it is perhaps because it ever keeps itself before the public eye that it has received so many familiar names up and down the land. Between thirty and forty such have been collected, each of which refers to some special characteristic.
Early in the season when the spring flowers are at their loveliest it is not much in evidence, but, as their first glory passes and the summer days draw on, it bursts into flower and claims the passer-by's notice. Its stems, woody and tough, twist in and out of the hedge, matting it together, but always coming to the top and somewhat stifling the hedgerow beneath it. It is the only plant we have that can in any sense represent those giant climbers - the lianes and "twist - ropes" of the tropics.
Because of this character it is known as "Bind-with," "Bedwine," "Hag-rope" (i.e. Hedge-rope), " Love-bind," "Robin Hood's Fetters," and "With-wind." Trailing like a vine, it is called the Clematis from the Greek - klema, a vine - or anglicised, the White, Hedge, or Wild Vine respectively. Its second botanical name vitalba emphasises it as the "White Vine."
But it has no tendrils to help it to climb as the vine has, so it utilises for this purpose the stalks of its leaves. Now, each leaf is made up of five heart-shaped leaflets (two pairs and a terminal one), set rather far apart from each other on fine stems, so that it has a dainty and airy appearance. These leaf-stalks seem to have some power of sensation, for when they touch a suitable branch they twist round it and thus secure a further hold for the growing plant. Darwin, indeed, believes that the leaves in many varieties of Clematis move spontaneously in order that their stalks may have the chance of twining. That twining is actually caused by stimulation is shown by the fact that if they touch nothing they remain uncoiled. This method of climbing is a little unusual. Some of its trailing stems are to be found several yards long.
Then the flowers appear, thickly covering the plant and making the hedgerows all white atop. Often the plant forms veritable bowers, and so it has been called "Lady's Bower" (originally, no doubt "Our Lady's Bower"), and "Virgin's Bower," but this, we are specially told by an old writer, had no reference, like the former name, to the Virgin, but was given out of compliment to the virgin Queen Elizabeth. There is, however, a legend that the Virgin Mary rested under a Clematis bower during her flight into Egypt, and thus sanctified it. And since in harvest time it is at the zenith of its flowering " Snow in Harvest" is a well-known country name. In the mass the flowers are charming; individually, we find their charm lies essentially in their multitude of silvery stamens tinged with faint green, standing out rosette-like. There are no petals whatever, but the stamens are backed by four white sepals, felt-like to look and touch, which early disappear. The centre of the flower is occupied by a green brush, made up of a number of carpels, each responsible for a single seed, and quite distinct from its fellows. In the early hours of the flower's life, the stamens are to the fore, discharging their pollen gifts upon all comers, and the central brush is closed; then they droop, and the brush opens and receives the visitors and all they can bring. There is no honey anywhere in the flowers, but the visitors can feast upon pollen, which is plentifully supplied. In fact, the spreading brush and the lavish pollen, together with its elevated position on the tops of hedges, have given rise to a suggestion that possibly the Clematis may look to the wind for assistance in cross-fertilising its flowers. The scent, without being actually sweet, is very fresh and fragrant, and something like that of the hawthorn. It is said to be specially attractive to flies, and we certainly find flies frequenting this plant. It has been, perhaps a little extravagantly, described as the "most spiritual, impalpable, and yet far-spreading of all vegetable odours, a perpetual pearl of simplicity intermingled with fragrance."
As the flowers fade the plant increases rather than diminishes in beauty.
"The Traveller's Joy,
Most dainty when its flowers assume
The autumn form of feathery plume,"
wrote Bishop Mant, for the upper part of each thread of the fruiting brush begins to grow and curl outwards, while the little fruits swell and push apart. They are now of a pinkish colour, and each carries a lengthening plume of silvery-grey, most delicately fringed. By degrees clusters of silvery-grey fluff stud the branches where the flowers have been, and are the reason for a pretty name of the plant - "Silver Bush." Other names, owing their birth to aspects of the plant at this stage, are "Greybeards," "Daddy's Beard," "Old Man," "Old Man's Beard," and "Old Man Woozard."
By now the autumn is drawing on, and, with its later days, the wind rustles through the delicate clusters and breaks them up. Each fruit with its long streaming plume floats away through the air, swaying hither and thither until it becomes entangled in some other hedgerow or is brought to the ground by rain, when it at least makes an attempt to start life on its own account.
It is not always realised that the Clematis and the buttercup are close relatives; both belong to the family of the Ranunculaceæ.
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near wild clematis in Knolik
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