clematis: sexy seedheads, but where’s the seed?

TALK ABOUT A CURIOSITY ITEM: The seedheads of certain Clematis certainly qualify as botanical oddballs. Did you ever wonder, as I did today passing by the ripening ones on my Clematis tangutica, just which part in each of those wild wig-hats* is the seed itself?

The British Clematis Society’s seedhead page makes it all very clear, should the thought of propagating vines from seed–or just a deeper desire to understand what is going on outdoors, which is what always gets to me–cross your mind. Follow each of those feathery tails (the strands of silky stuff) down to the base of the puffball, and you’ll usually find the beginning of a seed. Those in the picture aren’t ripe yet, in case you’re wondering. Still too shiny.

(*Or maybe you’re just wondering what a wig-hat is? Don’t ask me; I learned the phrase from Tommy Tucker’s much-covered 1964 Number 1 single. It’s apparently something you wear with “High-Heel Sneakers,” as the tune was titled. My Clematis didn’t read the entire dress code, but I’m pretty sure those are wig-hats on its heads.)

October 13, 2010


  1. Pat Bennett says

    I have quite a few clematis growing on my fences & arbor, and I’ve collected many of their seeds over the years. I’ve never had any luck getting them to germinate. If anyone has some advice to share, I’d love to know the secret.

  2. terryk says

    My sweet autumn clematis looks similar but this one looks a bit nicer. I loved it in flower and I’m trying to think of a spot for one next year. Hopefully by time spring rolls around I will remember this post!

  3. Margaux Drake says

    Your writing cracks me up! The word sexy should be tossed around more in the gardening circle–thanks for throwing it out there today. I did a blog post on sexy ferns and kind of wondered if I was the only one out there that thought plants were in any way sexy. Now I see that I’m in good company. You’re hysterical and oh-so-informative at the same time. Shouldn’t we all have this much fun when we write? You keep writing. I’ll keep reading. Thanks!

  4. Deborah says

    I’ve never tried to start clematis from seed, but I have 8 or 10 clematis babies around my Arctic Queen clematis. It must be an easy one to start from seed. I’m growing these seedlings on to see if they do come true. They might be some weird cross between A. Queen and Bee Jubilee or Betty Corning.

  5. says

    I agree, seedheads are sexy! If you start a sexy seedheads club, let me know! How about a sexy seedheads book? Have you seed sesame seed pods, cotton, okra? Super sexy. I nominate poppies, nigella, honesty, and radish to the club as well.

  6. Nancy up in NW PA says

    Wig hats! I remember them. They were a sort of spiky, acrylic hat that looked a little like hair – very shaggy and rather out-of-control hair. I had one back in 1962 and wore it at least for that winter in SW New York state. We had rough winters up there and you HAD to wear a hat, even a weird hat, if you wanted to have ears by the time the school bus trundled by to pick you up at 7:15 AM in sub-zero weather.

    Never did figure out where you could buy high-heeled sneakers though. Maybe the city kids knew but for rural kids, a hat that looked like a wig was the next best thing.

  7. WakingDream says

    My white, small-flowered Autumn Clematis self sows regularly, but only from those seeds that have passed through a winter’s freeze and thaw cycles. Ihave shared many with friends. I never had any luck collecting fresh seed and germinating them, inside or out. Once they have gotten stuck in a crevice somewhere and experienced a winter outside, they seem willing to germinate.

    Zone 6, Southeastern PA

  8. Sharon says

    Thanks Margaret. The only info in my plant propagation books said that some species require cold and some require both heat and cold, without saying which. Big help. Guess that’s why WakingDream has Autumn babie. Mine has never produced babies though.

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