Clematis tangutica: Careful what you wish for

I have lusted after Clematis tangutica, the late-flowering beauty with the common name golden clematis or sometimes orange-peel clematis due to its thick petals (really: sepals). And I have planted Clematis tangutica. And, like many of the clematis I’ve grown, I have killed Clematis tangutica.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when researching this post today I came across this document from the Alberta Invasive Plants Council calling my darling a noxious weed, warning, “Do not buy plants or seeds labeled with any of the names listed above.” As far as I can tell (please speak up if you know differently), Alberta is the only provice to issue this caveat, but some U.S. states also list this and its synonym (or close relation?) Clematis orientalis as invasive.

Did I mention that I’ve killed it? Perhaps Alberta needs me.

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Clematis tangutica in flower in the Entry Garden at the Toronto Botanical Garden.

The Entry Garden at the Toronto Botanical Garden had a wonderous display of this plant in the early part of October. Banks and banks of it. So when I contacted TBG Head gardener Sandra Pella to confirm the ID I asked whether it lives up to its reputation for invasiveness. Does it self-seed? Her reply:

“It has seeded itself everywhere in the entry garden!”

Well it is a tough customer, frequently described as “very vigorous,” tolerant of poor soil, and of winter temperatures of minus-40˚F and C. That’s chilly.

Did I mention that I’ve killed it?

The banks of seed heads above and below are likely not Clematis tangutica – too early in the season for this display, although they would look similar to this. They are shown simply to illustrate a) how lovely clematis seed heads can be, and b) how many flippin’ seeds clematis can make!

From the look of them, you can probably guess why numerous clematis species have the common name “old man’s beard.” They start off as silky strands, which end up fluffy and feathery, helping to make them airborne and eminently self-seedy.

Did I mention that, well, you know…

The seed heads alone make a beautiful fall and winter picture for the garden. If you don’t mind pulling up seedlings, and if no noxious flags are waving anywhere near you, perhaps you could find a (sizeable) spot for this in your garden.

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Again, not Clematis tangutica, but a closeup that illustrates how those silky threads unravel into fluff

Have you grown Clematis tangutica? Or Clematis tibetana subsp. tangutica – from what I can see, it’s a synonym. What is your experience? We’d love to hear.

10 comments

  1. I grew this clear at is in my garden on Vancouver Island and it did seed around a bit but wasn’t a nuisance. Now I garden in zone 5 in the dry Interior and I’d try it again but I think I’ll get the native, white-flowering species instead.

    1. Gordon, I tried to grow the native sweet autumn clematis once and my husband used to tease me about my rather pathetic “rampant” vine. It didn’t last more than one year in my clematis-unfriendly garden. Good luck with yours. Good to know about your C. tangutica. Was it a particular cultivar?

  2. While it is very pretty, I have so many “vigorous” plants in my garden that that is one of the first things I research when it comes to making additions. But I doubt I would have looked up a clematis – I had absolutely no clue that they could self-seed. I always learn so much from your posts 🙂

    1. Not all clematis do, but some can — and this appears to be one of them. I had no idea it was a potential problem, either, until yesterday when I was doing research for this post. Always learning, is my motto!

  3. I am positive I bought one at Humber many years ago and it grew on a chain link fence for many years. Never pruned it. Never reseeded. It was big and flowerful. It either died one year all on its own or my neighbour had her gardener rip it off the fence at the wrong time of year because out of season with no pruning it might look unsightly to some people. I miss it.

    1. Well, that’s interesting, too, Barry. Some plants, even vigorous ones, do occasionally just up and die. A neighbour used to have the “silver-lace vine that ate New York” growing all over her fence, and climbing like a canopy over her driveway, for example. Then, poof! Gone. Maybe that happened to your clematis?

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