Saturday, May 3, 2008

Tale of Two Clematis--Terniflora vs. Virginiana

Warning: native vs. non native treasure hunt story and dismay at nurseries in 3...2....

So, I bought a C. terniflora last fall from some mail order place. I thought, cool, fast grower, tons of white flowers in late summer and fall when all else is ugly. Luckily, it has appeared to die--luckily because I've researched just how terribly invasive and non native (Asia) the thing was.

Which brought me to our native and very similar C. virginiana. Also a fast grower to around 15' tall, white flowers a bit earlier, pretty much the same deal. Also a bit invasive it seems, but much less, and it's native. I'd been reading horror stories about terniflora choking native woods and colonizing gardens and neighboring yards (even years after it'd been removed).

Before I went to buy a replacement, hoping to find the native locally and avoid ordering one online, I discovered nurseries may sell both under the same common name: sweet autumn clematis. Deal is, the leaves are very different, as you can see below from the first two pics (#1 is terniflora, #2 is virginiana).

At the nursery then to buy an expensive vine ($25 seems steep to me, but I know it's not for a clematis). Looking through the plants to confirm these are indeed the non native, I come across a very few labeled as terniflora, but clearly have different leaves. Huh? Could it be that among the foreign invaders some natives have been wrongly labeled? Or, is it that in the nursery trade one sweet autumn clematis really is like another no matter what? (And how stupid is that? And why are they selling the aggressive non native anyway?) You be the judge: doesn't it look like I got C. virginiana? Pat on the back anyone? I will pat myself, anyway. Pat pat pat. Ruuuuub. Ummm, that sure feels good. Want to go back to my place?


CanadianGardenJoy said...

Hi Benjamin
Is the native vine you are looking for also named "Virgin's Bower" ?.. native clematis ? .. because that is what I have had for about 4 years now running along side Enngelmann Ivy .. it has small but beautiful white flowers and those amazing "hairy" ? seed heads .. not aggressive at all but can hold its own with the other vine.
Just wondering ..

Anonymous said...

Ha! Get a grip!!! And yes, congrats, looks like you found our native sweet autumn clematis, which is lusty but not invasive for me. And further congrats on your original dying so you didn't have to face the trauma of killing it!

Gail said...

I can attest to it's aggressive nature....I removed it many times but it shows up half a yard away and is a foot long before I notice it.

Unknown said...

Lusty, says Our Friend Ben? That makes me want to renew my efforts to find the Virgin's Bower.
(You can see my post about the difference between these two here. Funny how some of us seem to find the same tangents/trips in this gardening voyage.)

Benjamin Vogt said...

Joy--Yes, that's it, Virgin's Bower (what a name!). So, how fast does yours grow? How big is it? I'm curious if it really is similar in both looks and growth as the asian cultivar.
OFB--Come on. Who else can love me like myself?
Gail--It's exactly stories like yours that makes me glad NOT to have it! Phew.
Kim--That IS a strange coincidence. Well, you can't have mine. But if they really are all mixed in with the non native, maybe there's one near you even as we speak, just hoping you'll snatch it up.

Barbee' said...

I used to want both those plants until I read numerous horror stories, too. Then I was afraid to plant either one. Thank you for posting the photos of the foliage so we can see them together. Yes, nurseries still sell plants that are thugs, because uninformed or care-less people keep asking for it.

Les said...

I concur that you have our native. We are thick with them in late August, running all up through other plants. It is one of those things I associate with the end of beach season, a return to school and the resumption of a more normal schedule.

Unknown said...

Gee, thanks, Benjamin! I see how you are about sharing. ;)

Now that you mention it, though, and Les concurs that you have the real deal, I'm going to print out your picture at work so I can keep it on hand. Maybe I WILL find one that matches among the non-natives.

Benjamin Vogt said...

Barbee--Well I don't care; nurseries should be like the government (some things only) and just do what is right no matter the costs. I hope the native isn't as "robust" as some say it is.
Les--Excellent! It's robust, huh? And hey, beaches? What? I'm land locked here--closest thing to a beach I've got is the sand backfill against my house's foundation. But I do like how certain plants clue is on to changes around us; I was reading yesterday how bud swell / blood / leaf out of certain plants can tell you when to expect various bad insects.
Kim--You want a leaf? I could at least send you a leaf. You could make a necklace out of it, and then it'd be handy for when you need to i.d. a clematis at the nursery.

Unknown said...

It is interesting to think of nurseries being just like government, always right. As to "no matter the cost", well unfortunately business has to pay the government first (taxes), the lawyers second, followed by the bank and employees, which then are followed by actually paying the people who sold the nursery the plants in the first place. Of course we all know that every business makes tons of profit which explains why our stock market is doind so well no matter which company one invests in.

Cost, however, is a red-herring. Knowing what you are selling should be a matter of pride, and the consumer should enforce this pride by choosing only nurseries which effectively over the long run provide the most accurate information possible. The market place is a great enforcer if the public chooses to exercise some of its pocket power.
The challenge of correct identification can be most interesting. I am fortunate to work with scientist from the U. S. National Arboretum close to our nursery, and with researchers at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC) and the good folks at the National Agricultural Library (NAL). This provides me with a font of "right" information to the best of the collective wisdom of the US government to date. Unfortunately, our government has decided because of cost to restrict and limit the on-going research, so in the end the nurseries will be on their own.
I am working as a full time volunteer to reverse this trend in government as far as research into the fields of foods, fuels, fibers, flowers, and forests, know as USDA.

I also serve again as an unpaid volunteer as Secretary of the National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee, meeting next week in Alaska, May 2008. Correct identification of plants and pests is critical to gardening and the preservation and enhancement of natural areas. The collections of USDA ARS, now on a hit list of sorts are crucial to this work "Invasive Notes".

I am simpathetic to your identification trials. I am trying to figure out if the Lonicera (honeysuckle) hybrids we sell are native or exotics, invasive or benign, and with all my connections I am still confused and for the time being at a lost to find definitive answers. So I am telling my buyers to be careful and to label what we know and what we do not. Our customers just like the flowers and the fragrance, with fragrance being an indicator of trouble, sigh

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your conscientiousness. Would that others gardened with the principle, "First do no harm."

In Gardenweb online forums you will find supposedly educated gardeners who rave about Clematis terniflora's pretty flowers that smell so sweet and don't seem to care that this monster is listed as officially invasive in 7 states. And we wonder how kudzu got out of control?

cialis said...

Hi, well be sensible, well-all described

j said...

Hi, I found your post regarding these clematis varieties and shared the link here
Thank you,

Anonymous said...

Hi I have a totally different question.
Clematis apiifolia is similar as native Clematis virsiniana. Do you know how different botanically?
The foliage looks very similar.

Elisabeth Pitkethley said...

I am trying to ID what I think is a Clematis which had popped up next to my Clematis 'Vyvyan Pennell', but because of the neglect was only discovered by my husband when weeding. He left it in case it was 'valuable', bless him. It was a mystery to me, and my son took a piece home to find it on the internet, and here we are. Thing is, although we think it is C. virginiana, we live in the North Island of New Zealand and so it can't possible be. I was worried that it might be what we call 'Olds Man's Beard' which is a super-invasive climber that our Department of Conservation tries desperately to eradicate from our beautiful native bush. It will be interesting to see what the flower is like, as that may be the only sure way of a positive identification.