Clematis tibetana

Clematis of the Month for November 2013

Clematis tibetana appearing to be a quite variable species, has for years presented a challenge to those involved in identification. Having received seed from various countries for a number of years, some appears to be what is commonly thought to be C. tibetana.

Problems I have found in identification firstly involve descriptions in texts. Flora of China lists: Clematis tibetana var. tibetana, Clematis tibetana var. vernayi, Clematis tibetana var. linearloba. Magnus Johnson lists: C. tibetana subsp. tibetana, C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. dentata, C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. laciniifolia, C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. vernayi, with Grey-Wilson adopting a similar path to Johnson.

Points to identification

Flowers; tepals broadly ovate, not re-curved, thick in C. tibetana subsp. tibetana and C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. vernayi, but thin, papery texture in C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. dentata. C. tibetana subsp.vernayi var laciniifolia. which may be open and slightly recurved, in Johnson, but Flora of China does not mention this difference. Tepal colour is not a distinguishing feature as it can vary from greenish yellow, though yellow, to orange, bronze to dark purple.

C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. laciniifolia©Roy Nunn
C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. laciniifolia flower

C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. vernayi©Roy Nunn
C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. vernayi flower

Generally the plant is quite vigorous growing up to 4 metres with stems that are green when young turning to bronze or purple when mature, usually ribbed finely from 6 to 10.

Leaves of plants vary considerably, below for example is the foliage of C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. vernayi.

C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. vernayi©Roy Nunn

Followed by the foliage of C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. laciniifolia.

C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. laciniifolia©FRCC

The foliage of C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. dentata differs from the preceding clematis.

C. tibetana subsp. vernayi var. dentata©Roy Nunn

Plants grown in our garden seem to be perfectly hardy and thrive in our alkaline very free draining soil, but they will not tolerate excessively wet winters. Cold I suspect is not a problem for these plants knowing that they have been collected from high in the Himalaya of Tibet and Nepal where they will be covered by layers of snow in winter.

They certainly make a good display in summer, where the foliage background accentuates the small but numerous flowers.

C. tibetana©Roy Nunn

Roy Nunn Roy Nunn



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