Clematis fremontii S. Watson
Fremont's Leather Flower
Family - Ranunculaceae
Habit - Freestanding perennial herb with elongate rhizomes.
Stems - Erect, not twining, to 0.5 m.
Leaves - Simple, leathery, entire, pubescent. Upper surface green, lower surface paler.
Flowers - Solitary in leaf axils, urn-shaped. Sepals 4, petalloid, 2-3 cm long with reflexed tips, pale green or purple, leathery, hairy externally, glabrous internally. Petals absent. Stamens and pistils numerous.
Fruits - In clusters, with achene beaks typically ascending and arching outward.
Flowering - April - May.
Habitat - Glades, tops of bluffs, roadsides.
Origin - Native to the U.S.
Lookalikes - Flowers of some other species of Clematis are similar.
Other info. - This distinctive plant is found in only a few areas, mostly in east-central Missouri and north-central Kansas. Where it is found it can be locally fairly abundant. It is easy to recognize, being the only freestanding (not vining) Clematis in the state. Over the winter, the leaves turn brown and slowly disintegrate, leaving behind the persistent lacy vasculature as well as the distinctive Medusa-like fruiting heads. The plant is a slow-growing but long-lived perennial. In Missouri it is a tracked species of concern (S3), vulnerable due to restricted range and relatively few extant populations.
Photographs taken at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 5-7-2007, Victoria Glade, Jefferson County, MO, 5-30-2009, Valley View Glade Natural Area, Jefferson County, MO, 4-10-2010, 5-18-2010, 4-17-2015, and 5-8-2017, and at Washington State Park, Washington County, MO, 4-24-2017 (SRTurner).