05.05.14 Clematis verticillaris, a member of the buttercup family, is a creeping vine that winds around tree branches in the woods in the Spring at our home. It’s such a shy little vine–you have to be really looking to catch sight of its solitary flower, buried amongst the budding green leaves in the unkept, somewhat wild forest around us. One of the wildflower websites suggests that you watch for the fuzzy floss seeds in the Fall, follow them where they blow, and make a mental note, to look in the Spring at that spot for the elusive flower. They are on the Endangered Species list in the eastern U.S., once prolific in New England. In plant lore, the flowers are a vasoconstrictor and were used in making tea to treat migraine headaches. Current botany books caution that they will irritate the skin and can even cause paralysis of the central nervous system if ingested.
There’s something about the name, “Virgin’s Bower”, that captures my fancy. Her thin vine is actually quite tenacious and if you try to pull her off a tree, you are likely to be entangled in a web, unable to sever her grip, nor find her root. Is she twisting and turning, capturing a mate in her bower, only to paralyze him when he puts his lips to her mouth! Yet, with all that power, she flowers for just one week. Come September, she’ll turn to a feathery wisp on the vine and scatter off when the cold wind blows, to a new hiding place in the forest.
My birthday is coming up, and in other places I’ve lived, lilacs, my very favorite flower, were out for the celebration. It’s June before I smell their sweet fragrance here in Montana. But, now, in May, I love the hunt for the mysterious Virgin’s Bower.