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Virgin's Bower
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Clematis ligusticifolia

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About Virgin's Bower (Clematis ligusticifolia) Clematis ligusticifolia is a climbing, spreading vine with showy flowers. It is also known as Old-man's Beard and Yerba de Chiva, and Virgin's bower, (though the last name may also refer to C. lasiantha). It is native to North America where it is widespread across the western United States in streamside thickets, wooded hillsides, and coniferous forests up to 4,000 feet. It was called "pepper vine" by early travelers and pioneers of the American Old West. They used it as a pepper substitute to spice up food since real black pepper (Piper nigrum) was a costly and rarely obtainable spice. Like the rest of the Clematis genus, it contains essential oils and compounds which are extremely irritating to the skin and mucous membrames. Unlike Black Pepper or Capsicum, however, the compounds in clematis cause internal bleeding of the digestive tract if ingested internally in large amounts. The plants are essentially toxic. Despite its toxicity, Native Americans used very small amounts of clematis as an effective treatment for migraine headaches and nervous disorders. It was also used as an effective treatment of skin infections. A whole-plant hot water extraction was used to treat eczema, and a leaf compress is used to treat chest pain, sores, and boils.
Plant Description
Plant Type
Vine, Perennial herb

Max. Height
1 - 30 ft (0.3 - 9.1 m)

Max. Width
2 - 6 in (5 - 15cm)

Climbing, Spreading


Growth Rate

Summer Deciduous

Flower Color
White, Cream

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Stream Edges, wet places

Full Shade, Part Shade

Elevation ?
-7' - 14019'

Annual Precip. ?
4.1" - 89.4"

Summer Precip. ?
0.15" - 4.07"

Coldest Month ?
9.1° F - 56.5° F

Hottest Month ?
32.8° F - 84.1° F

Humidity ?
0.09 vpd - 38.61 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of sand and clay

Soil PH
5 - 8

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -20 - -10° F

Sunset Zones ?
1*, 2*, 3*, 4*, 5*, 6*, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
This plant is often found climbing up through larger shrubs such as Birch (Betula species), Ceanothus species, Dogwood (Cornus species), Coffeeberry (Frangulas species), Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Wild Rose (Rosa species), and Western Blueberry (Vaccinium uliginosum ssp. occidentale)

Wildlife Attracted
Attracts bees and butterflies

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water, 1x/month, 2x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Common uses
Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Botanical Names
Clematis ligusticifolia var. ligusticifolia|Clematis ligusticifolia var. brevifolia|Clematis ligusticifolia var. californica

Common Names
Yerba De Chiva, Western White Clematis, Old-man's Beard

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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