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Clematis virginiana (Devil's darning needles)
Smith, R.W.

Clematis virginiana

Clematis virginiana L.

Devil's Darning Needles, Virgin's Bower, Old Man's Beard

Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)

Synonym(s): Clematis virginiana var. missouriensis

USDA Symbol: clvi5

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

A 15-20 ft., fine-texured vine, climbing by twisting leaf stalks. Profuse, axillary clusters of small, white flowers are followed by plume-like, feathery achenes. Trifoliate leaves are bright-green. A climbing vine with white flowers in many clusters arising from the leaf axils.

A beautiful and common Clematis, it trails over fences and other shrubs along moist roadsides and riverbanks. The female flowers, with their feathery tails or plumes, give a hoary appearance and are especially showy in late summer. Lacking tendrils, the vine supports itself by means of twisted stems, or petioles, that wrap around other plants.


From the Image Gallery

22 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Vine
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Complexity: Trifoliate
Fruit Type: Achene
Size Notes: Climber
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , VA , VT , WI , WV
Canada: MB , NB , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: N.S. to Man., s. to GA, LA & OK
Native Habitat: Low, moist woods; thickets; stream banks

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Prefers moist, rich soils, but will also thrive in dry shade.
Conditions Comments: The leaves of this species are poisonous to humans. Fast-growing stems can grow 20 ft. in one year. They may be pruned at any time during the growing season. To encourage bushiness, prune stems in the spring to within a few feet of the ground. Climbs well on narrow supports such as twigs or wire fences.


Use Wildlife: Hummingbirds, Bees
Use Medicinal: An extract of the stems was used as a wash to induce strange dreams by the Iroquois. It is a hallucinogen. (Native American Ethnobotany. Aboriginals used this plant as medicine for many puposes. The Cherokee used an infusion of this with milkweed for backache. They also used it as an ingredient in ceremonial green corn medicine. An infusion of the root is taken for stomach trouble and nerves. An infusion taken from the root was used to kidney trouble by the Cherokee and the Iroquois. The Iroquois also used and infusion of the roots to treat veneral disease sores. (Native American Ethnobotany)
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Severe pain in mouth if eaten; skin irritation if touched or inhaled. Symptoms include burning sensation of mouth and mouth ulcers. Skin redness and burning sensation is minor and lasts only a few minutes. Toxic Principle: Anemonin.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Attracts: Butterflies , Hummingbirds


Description: Higher germination results from stored seeds sown indoors or in a cold frame than from seed sown directly outdoors after collection. Stem cuttings that include at least 2 sets of leaves can be taken any time during the growing season. The fastest method is layering.
Seed Collection: The feathery achenes, which are actually one-seeded fruits, are dark brown and ready for collection through the fall. Seed heads persist for several months so collection time is not critical. Store dry, with the feathery styles, in sealed, refrigerated containers.
Seed Treatment: A 60-180 day period of cold-moist stratification at 33-40 degrees aids in the germination of stored seeds.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Can be an agressive self seeder.

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Vines for shade in North-Central Georgia
August 07, 2009
I am looking for something to hide a 6' wood fence that will grow in almost full shade. I have an area approx 2 feet wide to plant in. Since the fence and planting areas are stepped -- about 8 feet f...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

Additional resources

USDA: Find Clematis virginiana in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Clematis virginiana in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Clematis virginiana


Record Modified: 2017-08-07
Research By: TWC Staff

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