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Western Virgin's Bower, Western Blue Virginsbower, Mountain Clematis, Purple Clematis, Purple Virgin's-bower - Clematis occidentalis


Family: Ranunculaceae - Buttercup family Genus Common Name: Leather Flower Native Status: NativeVine Perennial Herb
Clematis occidentalis - Western Virgin's Bower, Western Blue Virginsbower, Mountain Clematis, Purple Clematis, Purple Virgin's-bower. Clematis occidentalis is a viny plant which carries its violet blue to purple (occasionally purplish pink or white) blossoms between mid spring and early summer. It is one of two species in the Atragene subgenus of Clematis, the other being Clematis columbiana. It seems the primary visual difference between the species is the trifoliate leaf form, with C. columbiana being 2-3 ternate, while C. occidentalis is 1-ternate. Also the leaf margins of C. columbiana are usually serrate, while those of C. occidentalis are either entire or may be toothed. These small differences result in what is apparently a frequent incorrect identification in the western states where the ranges of the two species overlap. Of course, it is possible that I have incorrectly identified it here.

There are three varieties of Clematis occidentalis: var. grosseserrata is found only in the western U.S. and Canada, var. occidentalis is found only in the eastern U.S. and Canada, and var. dissecta which is found only in Washington state. Var. occidentalis is pretty rare, and is listed in the following Illinois (Endangered), Maine (Special Concern), Maryland (Endangered), Massachusetts (Special Concern), Ohio (Presumed Extirpated), and Rhode Island (Endangered.)

Found in:
CO, CT, DE, IA, ID, IL, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MT, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, RI, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI, WV, WY

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Clematis occidentalis

Distribution of Clematis occidentalis in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 22 Oct 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Ponderosa State Park, Valley County, ID Date: 2012-June-01Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leaves of Clematis occidentalis (as well as those of the similar Clematis columbiana are trifoliate. The plant is found in deep soils in shady forests, as well as in rocky, open wooded areas.
Clematis occidentalis

Site: Ponderosa State Park, Valley County, ID Date: 2012-June-01Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Sigma 100-400 Zoom
Western Virginís Bower carries its blossom on a shoot above its leaves. The violet-blue sepals form a somewhat spreading bell shape.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Clematis occidentalis

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer