Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A purple leatherflower flower from below

with 13 comments

Purple Leatherflower Flower from Below 0749

In the last post I mentioned that the tepal tips of a purple leatherflower, Clematis pitcheri, flange back but don’t create a wide opening at their center. This picture of one of these flowers photographed from below shows you what I meant. In spite of the constriction, the reproductive parts of the flower are exposed enough to do what they’re there to do. Just look at all that scattered pollen. Speaking of which: did you know that pollen was a Latin word that meant ‘fine flour’ and ‘mill dust’? Only in the 1700s did botanists repurpose the word (and only in recent years did the verb repurpose come into existence; the WordPress editor still puts red dots under it, as it does under leatherflower, understandably, and tepal, which it probably “thinks” is a typo for petal.)

This photograph is from an April 27th visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. These words are from my boisterous brain.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 18, 2013 at 12:30 PM

13 Responses

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  1. Beautiful picture. I really like the pollen sprinkled on the petals.

    Sophie L.

    September 18, 2013 at 2:33 PM

  2. Clematis is a lovely plant, even if people can’t decide how it’s pronounced. The Leatherflower is lovely. Does its name infer that it’s more resilient than other varieties of clematis?

    • It’s often the case that the first dictionary pronunciation stresses the first syllable and the second dictionary pronunciation stresses the second syllable, so, as you pointed out, different people say different things.

      The name leatherflower comes from the rubbery feel of the tepals. That may mean that these flowers are more durable than other species in the genus, but I have to confess that I have no experience with all the cultivated Clematis species from other parts of the world. Clematis drummondii, by far the most common native species in central Texas, doesn’t have such rubbery flowers, but the species does just fine.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2013 at 5:10 PM

  3. How large is the flower? And, nice placement of your name.

    Jim in IA

    September 18, 2013 at 4:49 PM

    • Good question. These are smallish flowers, often just an inch or so long. One of my wildflower books says they can be up to 1 3/8 inches long. Glad you like the name placement; the less conspicuous, the better, so as not to distract too much from the photograph.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 18, 2013 at 4:59 PM

  4. This one looks like it was crafted in a confectioner’s shop! How very interesting!

    George Weaver

    September 18, 2013 at 11:43 PM

    • I never thought of confectioner’s sugar, but I can see it now that you say it. This flower is smaller than the photograph makes it look, so a confectioner would have to sell a lot of them to make any money.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2013 at 6:29 AM

  5. Looks more like suede than leather to me, but pretty and rich-colored all the same.


    September 19, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    • Not wanting to be considered hidebound, I investigated and found this in Wikipedia: “Suede /ˈsweɪd/ is a type of leather with a napped finish, commonly used for jackets, shoes, shirts, purses, furniture and other items. The term comes from the French ‘gants de Suède’, which literally means ‘Swedish gloves’.” So you can say I’ve been swayed by your comment about suede.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 19, 2013 at 4:51 PM

      • And just to add another little nature note, “Swedish gloves” usually were made from lambskins tanned with willow bark.

        What amazes me is the difference between the lavender exterior and this rich purple. Is it a matter of the plant developing, or an inside/outside difference?


        September 20, 2013 at 6:33 PM

        • I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question, because I so seldom see this species that I’m not really familiar with it. I don’t get to see all the phases the way I do with Clematis drummondii.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 20, 2013 at 10:09 PM

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