Clematis terniflora-Sweet Autumn Clematis, Etc.

Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-5.

Sweet Autumn Clematis, Sweet Autumn Virginsbower, Japanese Virgin’s Bower, ETC.

Clematis terniflora

KLEM-uh-tiss/klem-AT-iss  ter-in-FLOR-uh
Synonyms of Clematis ternifloraClematis dioscoreifolia H.Lév. & Vaniot, Clematis maximowicziana Franch. & Sav., Clematis terniflora var. denticulata (Nakai) U.C.La, Clematis terniflora f. denticulata (Nakai) W.Lee, Clematis terniflora var. lancifolia (Nakai) U.C.La

Clematis terniflora DC. is the correct and accepted scientific name for the Autumn Clematis. It was named and described by Agustin Pyramus de Candolle in Regni Vegetabilis Systema Naturale in 1818. Clematis terniflora var. garanbiensis (Hayata) M.C.Chang is the only accepted variety of Clematis terniflora.

The genus, Clematis L., was named and described by Carl von Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753. Plants of the World Online by Kew list 385 species in the Clematis genus (as of 1-25-20 when I am updating this page). That number can change at any moment… Up two from about a year ago.

For further reading, don’t forget to check out the links at the bottom of the page. Some contain A LOT of technical ID information although this plant is not hard to identify.


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-6.

There are a couple of areas where Clematis terniflora is growing along the fence in the front pasture. I have seen them growing in other areas driving around the countryside and even a few in people’s yards in town. Although they appear to look very nice, they are very invasive.


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-7.

Clematis terniflora is native to several countries in northeast Asia and was introduced to the U.S. as an ornamental plant in the 1880’s. It is considered a category II invasive plant in several states. Invasive species invade native populations and smother them out. Native plants feed wildlife, birds, and insects indigenous to the area.


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-8.

The day I took these photos the flowers were teaming with life. These orange bugs were having a ball!


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-9.

Like other Clematis species, and most flowers in general, quite a list of insects feed on their nectar and pollen. Several species of caterpillars also feed on their leaves. Their leaves, however, are toxic and thus avoided by deer and cattle.


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-10.

Each time I passed by the flowers had a multitude of bees, ants, butterflies, plus the orange bugs from a previous photo.


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-11.

Clematis terniflora produce masses of white flower clusters emerge from the axils of the upper leaves. Normally the flowers are bi-sexual, but information suggests monoecious vines with separate male and female flowers do exist. Each flower has 4 petal-like sepals (sometimes 5) while true petals are absent. I could go on, but it gets exhausting after a while. You can read from the links below. 🙂


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-12.

It is a little hard to explain the leaf system of this plant but I’ll give it a shot. Information says the leaves are opposite, petiolate, compound, pinnate… In layman terms, the “leaf stem” normally has a pair of opposite leaves followed by three leaves at the end, which is what a compound leaf is. It isn’t just one single leaf. Each leaf is connected to the stem by a “petiole”, which itself resembles a small stem. The main stems twine and have many branches and “leaf stems”. Information online gives multiple lengths of the stems. Some say 9’ other say 30’ and others somewhere in-between. 


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-6-18, #503-13.

Identifying this plant is very easy because there isn’t anything of its type flowering in late summer-early fall.


Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 10-4-18, #515-2.

Once the flowers fade, they are replaced by clusters of 5 to 6 fruits. Each fruit is connected at the “head” and each has a long white tail. The fruits fade when they dry and the tails become feather-like. The fruit detaches and scatters from the wind in the spring. I did see some very neat photos of the seeds on other websites. I will have to pay attention and see if I can get photos for this page.

Personally, just my suggestion, if you have these growing on your property you may want to consider getting rid of them. Sometimes what seems to be a neat plant with beautiful flowers turns into a nightmare. Even though the flowers are beneficial, you can always plant wildflowers or some other species that are native and not invasive.

I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the farm and other areas. I have grown over 500 different plants and most have pages listed on the right side of the blog. I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.

I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at I would enjoy hearing from you.