Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Devil's Darning Needles, Virgin's Bower
Clematis virginiana

Family: Ranunculaceae (ra-nun-kew-LAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Clematis (KLEM-uh-tiss) (Info)
Species: virginiana (vir-jin-ee-AN-uh) (Info)

Synonym:Clematis virginiana var. missouriensis

» View all varieties of Clematis

11 vendors have this plant for sale.

6 members have or want this plant for trade.


12-15 ft. (3.6-4.7 m)

18-24 in. (45-60 cm)
24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Flower Fragrance:
Very Fragrant

Bloom Shape:

Bloom Diameter:
Small - less than 2 inches (5 cm)

Bloom Time:
Mid Summer

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade

Other details:
May be a noxious weed or invasive
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Pruning Groups:
Group 3 - Summer/Fall bloomers; prune hard in early spring

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
From woody stem cuttings
From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall
From seed; stratify if sowing indoors
By grafting
By simple layering

Seed Collecting:
Collect seedhead/pod when flowers fade; allow to dry
Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds
Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored

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There are a total of 13 photos.
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6 positives
5 neutrals
4 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Positive Rickwebb On Feb 10, 2014, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

It is fast growing, but not horribly rampant like the similar Sweetautumn Clematis (Clemais terniflora) from eastern Asia that is sold and planted around much, much more, unfortunately, because the Asian species does self-sow even as one plant all over the place; I think a number of negative comments below are really for this Asian species. Virgin's-bower is native from New Foundland to Manitoba and down to Texas and Florida is mostly sold just from native plant nurseries, though some large or special regular nurseries sell it too. It has separate male and female plants (dioecious), and the male (staminate) has whiter, more showy flowers. The female plants produce clusters of feathery plum-like hairy achene seeds like other clematis in late summer - early fall. My plant must be female because she has the hairy clusters this October of 2014, but I expect no seedlings. Because it has separate genders, it can't produce seedlings without at least two present. The vine can hit the ground and root on the ground. Its flowers have some sweet smell at times. It is tolerant of a fair amount of shade. It grows in dry to draining wet soils that are acid or alkaline of pH 6.0 to 8.5.

Neutral esanita On Jun 3, 2013, esanita from TYASKIN, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

Please read! If you have an aggressive clematis 'virginiana', it's probably not our native clematis virginiana but the invasive, aggressive non-native clematis terniflora. They look very much alike, but our native virginiana has trifoliate, toothed leaves. The invasive terniflora has mostly rounded and untoothed leaves. So check the leaves on your clematis. If they are rounded and not toothed, then you don't have clematis virginiana. You have terniflora -- get rid of it! Please check out this website; it's short with a very clear description of the two clematis', with pictures:

Neutral KittyWittyKat On Apr 6, 2012, KittyWittyKat from Saint Paul, MN (Zone 4b) wrote:

Clematis virginiana is a native US vine with toothed leaf margins - trifoliate. Whereas Clematis terniflora is an exotic vine with smooth margins and deemed invasive in multiple states.

Positive DracusBiology On Jul 17, 2011, DracusBiology from Portage, MI wrote:

Whoa, whoa, wait a minute... assuming you live in the Eastern United States and Canada this is a completely native plant. Yes it still has quite a potential to be 'weedy' but if you are looking for a native plant/pollinator garden this is a decent choice. Although it might take a little extra work to keep it in check the hummingbirds are supposed to go nuts with this stuff and it has a pretty long flowering season. There is some of this growing in a park nearby to my home and although I haven't seen any hummingbirds I have seen tons of butterflies at the flowers.

All parts of all species of clematis are toxic and most other native and non-native varieties will cause some minor skin irritation if you really get into it because of the toxin anemonin (for that matter many other common garden plants like foxglove are extremely toxic). If you aren't into the native gardening thing then this may not be for you but it certainly doesn't deserve a bad rap, at least not here were it is native.

Neutral cmackie On Mar 29, 2011, cmackie from Allentown, PA wrote:

Why does the plant data for this species list it as "very fragrant"? I thought the fact that it has no fragrance is one of the characteristics that distinguishes it from the invasive Japananes sweet autumn clematis.

Negative frecklez On Aug 12, 2010, frecklez from Rochester, VT wrote:

I'm dealing with the wild variety of virgin's bower (clematis virginiana) and although I couldn't find the comments on your site about its invasiveness, I'll say, WATCH OUT! Normally I take the whole invasive-species thing with a large grain of salt, but now it's war!
I had 2 little swamp willows sprout at the same time by my deck. Swamp willows grow in abundance up back along the old road so I welcomed them as a native species making themselves at home. I call them The Twins. They have been identical size and all, until just this year. I noticed one of them has been doing poorly, shrinking down, losing not just leaves but leaf stems, resulting in completely bare stems. I thought they were competing--until I noticed this really pretty vine, ivy-shaped leaves, lovely fairy-like white blossoms, sprawling all over the little willow. On a walk up the road, I then start connecting the dots. An entire row of wild swamp willows had been stripped last year and are dying. What should I notice now that I'm looking? Virgin's bower, clambering all over the place.
I feel like I'm in a horror movie featuring a predatory plant. Because the v.b. is indeed consuming my swamp willow, and has reached out a long tentacle to the other Twin.
Today I spent some time ripping out as much of the v.b. as I could, but I think it's spreading underground. It's also harboring in the overgrown brambles on the rocky bank by the willows, so I'm sure it will be back.
Any advice for demolishing this total pest??? Is it a native species?
Julia P.
P.S. I live in Central Vermont. The invasion of the v.b. almost seems like a recent phenomenon. Is it a byproduct of a noticeably milder climate up our way?

Neutral travelgal On Sep 8, 2009, travelgal from Clarkesville, GA wrote:

I think this plant can be confused with Sweet Autumn Clematis. (terniflora?) They are very similar. One is more invasive than the other. I have seen one of them growing wild in NE GA. It has two-tone varieg. green leaves. Does anyone have a positive ID on this? Thanx, Brenda

Positive desmarc On Jun 14, 2009, desmarc from New York, NY wrote:

We've had this plant growing in wood containers on our Manhattan terrace for more than 3 years, and every late summer it gives great pleasure to us and all our neighboring condo dwellers: beautiful clouds of white flowers all along our railings. Of course dies back every winter but comes back strong each spring. Granted, there's no danger of it escaping the containers and eating Manhattan, but it's a great note of nature in the city.

Positive claypa On Feb 28, 2009, claypa from West Pottsgrove, PA (Zone 6b) wrote:

Clematis virginiana is no more toxic than any other Clematis. This plant is native to most of the US and Canada east of the Rocky Mountains.

Negative raisedbedbob On Feb 13, 2006, raisedbedbob from Walkerton, VA (Zone 7a) wrote:

Toxic. Reportedly irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Ingestion may cause bloody vomiting severe diarrhea and convulsions.

Neutral grikdog On Aug 14, 2005, grikdog from St. Paul, MN (Zone 4a) wrote:

Put it someplace where you won't have to fight it. I have it out back fighting with the virginia creeper on an old woodpile. It is great there. I had to use extreme measures to remove it from near my garage because it was popping up where it was not wanted. Now we are living in peace :).

Positive JaxFlaGardener On Jun 24, 2005, JaxFlaGardener from Jacksonville, FL (Zone 8b) wrote:

I had posted before in my naivete, thinking that I had the native Clematis virginiana, when actually I had the invasive Japanese Sweet Autumn Clematis, C. terniflora. I still would like to see a photo of the two plants' leaves and flowers side-by-side to get a better idea of the differences. It is my current understanding that C. virginiana has a more serrate edge to the leaf, whereas C. ternifolia has a smooth leaf margin.

I don't think any native plant, like Clematis virginiana, can be considered "invasive." You might call them "prolific spreaders," but they were here before Europeans began to disturb the soil for their own whims, so consider for a moment whom the actual "invader" may be.


Negative dawogette On Jun 8, 2004, dawogette from Geraldton
Australia wrote:

Mulch well with composts in late winter
Aggressive when healthy, but sometimes difficult to establish. The best road to success is a cool, shaded root zone.

Prune: according to group (see general notes, above)
Bark: Exfoliating in strips, gray-brown
Root: Fleshy
Fragrance: Some spp are strongly fragrant
Fruit: Achenes, often with feathery styles
Solitary or in panicles
Campanulate (bell-shaped) or flat.
Perfect or unisexual. Carpels numerous.
Sepals 4, in 4s or occaisionally 5s, petal-like, petals absent, stamens numerous, some spp. with petal-like stamens.

Simple or pinnately or bipinnately compound

Soil, Water:
Moist but well drained, fertile, humous rich, many prefer sweet soils.
Keep root zone cool, shaded, and mulched with composts or leaves.

Powdery Mildew
Fungal Spot
Stem canker
Root rot nematodes (particularly problematic)


Plant distribution in Australia: Introduced Noxious weed aggressively eradicated

The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, page 274-279
Hortus Third, page 281-285
The Plants of Pennsylvania, page 572-574
Dictionary of Plant Names, Allen J. Coombes, page 43-44

Negative LamarB On Jun 7, 2004, LamarB from Huntsville, AL wrote:

This plant has beautiful tiny white flowers which bloom and cascade over in the fall, thence it's name. The downside is hundreds of plants it generates all over your lawn. They are impossible to pull up, and very difficult to kill, even with Roundup.

Positive sistabeth On Aug 27, 2003, sistabeth from Harrisburg, NC wrote:

This wonderful plant showed up in my yard as a volunteer. It was easily transplanted to a full sun area. I had no knowledge of the plant, but started it on a trellis and the results are spectacular. Profuse flowers and heavenly scent. Thank you Mother Nature for this "gift". I would have paid $ for it.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Blytheville, Arkansas
Sacramento, California
Bartow, Florida
Jacksonville, Florida
Brunswick, Georgia
Divernon, Illinois
Lincoln, Illinois
Lisle, Illinois
Waukegan, Illinois
Trout, Louisiana
Zachary, Louisiana
Northeast Harbor, Maine
Valley Lee, Maryland
Portage, Michigan
Chaska, Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Raymond, Mississippi
Frenchtown, New Jersey
Hilton, New York
New York City, New York
Panama, New York
Harrisburg, North Carolina
Bucyrus, Ohio
Cincinnati, Ohio
Glouster, Ohio
Allentown, Pennsylvania
Downingtown, Pennsylvania
Harrisonville, Pennsylvania
Millersburg, Pennsylvania
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Austin, Texas
Appleton, Wisconsin
Westfield, Wisconsin

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