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

(Clematis terniflora var. terniflora)

KLEM-uh-tiss/klem-AT-iss  ter-in-FLOR-uh

Synonyms of Clematis terniflora (1) (Updated on 1-10-23 from Plants of the World Online): Clematis recta subsp. terniflora (DC.) Kuntze (1885)
Synonyms of Clematis terniflora var. terniflora (19)(Updated on 1-10-23 from POWO): Clematis dioscoreifolia H.Lév. & Vaniot (1909), Clematis dioscoreifolia f. denticulata (Nakai) T.B.Lee (1966), Clematis dioscoreifolia var. robusta (Carrière) Rehder (1945), Clematis flammula var. robusta Carrière (1874), Clematis maximowicziana Franch. & Sav. (1878), Clematis maximowicziana var. robusta (Carrière) Nakai (1953), Clematis paniculata Thunb. (1794)(nom. illeg.), Clematis paniculata var. denticulata Nakai (1939), Clematis paniculata var. dioscoreifolia (H.Lév. & Vaniot) Rehder (1920), Clematis paniculata var. lathyroides DC. (1817), Clematis paniculata f. maximowicziana (Franch. & Sav.) Honda (1937), Clematis parviloba var. maximowicziana (Franch. & Sav.) Kuntze (1885), Clematis recta f. lancifolia Nakai (1909), Clematis recta subsp. paniculata Kuntze (1885), Clematis terniflora var. denticulata (Nakai) U.C.La (1996), Clematis terniflora f. denticulata (Nakai) W.Lee (1996), Clematis terniflora var. lancifolia (Nakai) U.C.La (1996), Clematis terniflora f. maximowicziana (Franch. & Sav.) Honda (1939), Clematis terniflora var. robusta (Carrière) Tamura (1953)

Clematis terniflora DC. is the accepted scientific name for the Autumn Clematis. It was named and described as such 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.

Accepted Infraspecific Names (4)(Updated on 1-10-23 from POWO): Clematis terniflora var. boninensis (Hayata) W.T.Wang (2003), Clematis terniflora var. garanbiensis (Hayata) M.C.Chang (1980), Clematis terniflora var. mandshurica (Rupr.) Ohwi (1938)*Clematis terniflora var. terniflora (autonym). *When an infraspecific taxa is named, an autonym (“type-specimen”) is automatically created that is closest to the (original) species. All have their own list of species (if any). The autonym is the only species present in North America.

The genus, Clematis L., was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

As of 1-10-23 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online lists 384 species in the Clematis genus. It is a member of the plant family Ranunculaceae with 50 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.

Distribution map of Clematis terniflora from Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved on May 5, 2021.

The above distribution map for Clematis terniflora is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple where it has been introduced. The map on the USDA Plants Database for the United States and Canada is similar and also includes Minnesota and California. The species could have a broader range than the maps show. 

The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations.


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.

Photos taken in 2022 are at the bottom of the page for now.

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, they 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 that 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’s 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’, others say 30’, or 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.

Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-20-20, #744-5.

I decided to take a couple more photos in 2020. Yeah, they are still here in the same spot plus another cluster on the fence along the road…

Clematis terniflora (Autumn Clematis) on 9-20-20, #744-6.

Personally, just my suggestion, if you have these growing on your property and you have more than your share, you might want to consider doing some thinning… 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 family farm and in other areas. I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 250 species of wildflowers (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.



NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂


Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) on 9-2-22, #908-5.


Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) on 9-2-22, #908-6.


Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) on 9-2-22, #908-7.


Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) on 9-2-22, #908-8.


Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) on 9-2-22, #908-7.


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