Clematis aristata in family Ranunculaceae. A vigorous climber, widespread, occurring in moist sheltered forests, it is also found in NSW, Vic, Qld and W.A. The name Clematis is from Greek “clematis” meaning “a climber”, and aristata from Latin “arista” meaning bristle or thorn, in reference to the fruits.
It has common names of Goatsbeard and Old man’s beard, probably arising from the wonderful fluffy white seed heads (photo right) following flowering on the female plants. (It is dioecious, meaning separate male and female plants.)
The plant is a leaf climber, its leaf stems coil around the branches of other plants. The leaves themselves are quite variable as seen in the photo on the left. They are opposite and trifoliolate (having three lobes or leaflets), usually solid green in colour, but sometimes variegated. The margins (edges) of the leaflets can be entire or toothed. Those I measured varied from about 3 to 7 cm long and about 3 to 5 cm wide.
The flowers are very showy. The male and female flowers are similar: numerous creamy-white pointed stamens or styles surrounded by 4 large white petal-like sepals in a star pattern. When we arrived on the island in early December there were masses of flowers on plants on the western side of the track near the Red Shed and on the track to the Whim shed. These areas have a sheltered NW to northerly aspect.
At the start of January, The flowers were finishing and the female plants were forming fruit. The botanical description of the fruit is “achenes ovate, flattened, with plumose style”. This is best explained by the picture on the left which shows one “seed head” with many achenes (small, dry, one-seeded fruit), each having a feathery tail that will carry the seed on wind. The achene is about 4mm long and 1.5 mm wide, and the remnant of the “plumose style” is approximately 25mm long.
And here’s the final stage (photo right) where the dried dark brown seeds separate easily and are ready to fly! By the end of January, the flowers were gone and the female plants looked like they were covered in balls of fine cotton wool.
I am working on two pieces for this plant. One is a graphite drawing (poor quality photo left) showing the cycle from seed to flower with the view to Cox Bluff in the background. The other is a macro stippling drawing in ink of the amazing seed head.