Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Scarlet leatherflower

with 35 comments

Scarlet Leatherflower Flower and Leaves 0552

Feast your eyes on the rich red of a scarlet leatherflower, Clematis texensis, at the Doeskin Ranch in Burnet County on April 8. This species is endemic to the southeastern portion of the Edwards Plateau in central Texas; in other words, it’s native nowhere else in the world. On other occasions I’ve found this species in my northwestern part of Austin and even along Onion Creek in southeast Austin, which must be the extreme eastern edge of the plant’s range.

How different in color and form the flowers of this Clematis species are from those of the much more common C. drummondii. Looking at the flowers and leaves of the two species, you’d never guess that botanists put them in the same genus.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 29, 2016 at 5:05 AM

35 Responses

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  1. how very pretty !!!


    April 29, 2016 at 5:39 AM

    • It is, and we have it right here in Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2016 at 7:09 AM

      • We have them too here in Belgium, the Clematis texensis is quite winterhardy.


        April 29, 2016 at 9:57 AM

        • Now that’s something I didn’t expect: our endemic Clematis texensis in Belgium. You have colder and much longer winters than we do, so the plant really is hardy.

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 29, 2016 at 11:17 AM

          • yep, it can take -20 C° ! and that is COLD! !


            April 29, 2016 at 11:45 AM

            • I wonder if that implies that Clematis texensis evolved here when the temperature was colder (perhaps during one of earth’s ice ages, for example). After the climate warmed to what it has been in recent millennia, that ability to withstand cold would have persisted but not been needed.

              Steve Schwartzman

              April 29, 2016 at 12:01 PM

              • we have loads of plants here from all over the world, and the strong ones survive I guess….I am not a botanist so I don’t know why they survive over here. I think that what we know about plants these days is only the tip of the iceberg !


                April 29, 2016 at 12:57 PM

                • I suspect that’s true about most everything. In the same way that we look back a few hundred years and see that people then knew very little about electricity and genetics and brain functions, for example, it seems likely that people a few hundred years from now will look back at us and see how little we understood about so many things.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 29, 2016 at 1:06 PM

                • That is true. So I often wonder about the people laying in the freezer in the hope that some day they can be revived…. if that ever happens they’ll die of shock when they’ll see how everything has changed ! 😀


                  April 29, 2016 at 1:10 PM

                • It would also most likely be a sad awakening because all the people the revived person cared about would long since have died (unless they, too, had been frozen and revived at the same time).

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  April 29, 2016 at 1:32 PM

                • Yes, that and all, I just hope for them that time never comes 😀


                  April 29, 2016 at 4:03 PM

        • Based on HeyJude’s comment below, I found that there’s a ‘Princess Diana’ cultivar of Clematis texensis:


          Do you know whether what you have in Belgium is a cultivar, as opposed to the native Texas original?

          Steve Schwartzman

          April 30, 2016 at 7:38 AM

          • Oh but we have several cultivars of the clematis texensis but not the original species I think


            May 3, 2016 at 12:27 PM

            • I think you’re right about the original not being found there. I didn’t even know about the cultivars till you mentioned them.

              Steve Schwartzman

              May 3, 2016 at 8:40 PM

  2. I’ve always thought this was one of our most striking flowers. The combination of the creamy-white interior and that just-barely-purplish red is elegant. Some day, I may actually see one. As a consolation prize, I’ll remember my discovery of the purple Clematis pitcheri, which has the same interesting shape. I went back to the place where I found it last month — the banks of the Brazos River, in East Columbia — but I may have been early, since it’s said to begin blooming in May.

    I noticed this morning that the USDA map says it’s not present in Brazoria, while the BONAP site shows it. Most of the time the two sites agree, but there are differences often enough that I’m learning to check both.


    April 29, 2016 at 7:08 AM

    • Even when both sites agree, there’s no guarantee of accuracy. A species can have its range expand or contract. A county that should be marked on the map may remain unmarked just because no botanist ever happened upon existing specimens there, especially on private land—which is the case for most land in Texas.

      Even though the purple leatherflower has a larger range than the red, and even though that range includes Austin, for some reason I almost never run into the purple leatherflowers. In contrast, there are a few locations where I know I’m likely to find some of the red. The Doeskin Ranch is probably the most reliable of them. Good luck in establishing a similar place near you for the purple.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2016 at 7:32 AM

  3. Dramatic, bold colour contrasts; it’s a hardy looking bloom!

    Nature on the Edge

    April 29, 2016 at 9:02 AM

    • Bold: I like your description. As for hardy, people named this a leatherflower because its sepals are thick and felt to them like leather. I find the feel more like rubber. Either way, the hardiness is there.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2016 at 9:08 AM

  4. I thought it was a tulip the wrong way round at first. What a beauty! I really like clematis – there are so many different varieties and I recently came across a scented one which flowers in January. Having read that this one is hardy in Belgium I will keep my eye out for one here.


    April 29, 2016 at 3:45 PM

    • I have no idea how Clematis texensis got to Belgium, but then people here grow plenty of plants from other parts of the world, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. You can probably order seeds online for the scarlet leatherflower.

      Steve Schwartzman

      April 29, 2016 at 7:41 PM

  5. It is beautiful Steve … the colour is divine


    April 30, 2016 at 9:05 PM

  6. looks like it’s about to kiss


    May 1, 2016 at 12:18 AM

  7. sedge808 beat me to it. It does look like it’s puckered for a bussing.

    Steve Gingold

    May 2, 2016 at 6:40 PM

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