If I were a wood nymph or a tiny fairy, I would wear purple skirts made out of rock clematis petals. They’re perfect and so fashionable! Bees and flies might try to pollinate me, but that would be okay.
Rock clematis (Clematis columbiana) is a perennial vine that’s native to the Rocky Mountains. With about 300 other species, including sugarbowls, it belongs to the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae.
Sometimes called Virgin’s Bower (which actually applies to a sister plant, Clematis ligusticifolia), this delicate little creeper blooms in June and July in the Tetons. I took a photo while hiking up Josie’s Ridge in Jackson in early June. Josie’s is a well-known local cardio-grunt with a quick elevation gain from the trailhead, right off the bike path near Flat Creek. The steep slope up to the ridge is host to a succession of amazing wildflowers all summer long.
When Clematis columbiana goes to seed and loses its fragile lavender petals, it’s no less beautiful. The seedheads fluff into frondy white tendrils. They’d make great fairy pompoms.
Mary Vaux Walcott (1860-1940), an American watercolorist, painted numerous wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains and other botanicals, including these lovely images of Clematis.