Of all the common names for Clematis hirsutissima, Sugar Bowls is surely the best. The other common names include Hairy Clematis (ugh), Vase Flower, Leatherflower, and Lion’s Beard. No contest in my mind! Although they are defined as being ‘common’ in our Flora of Colorado, it always seems special to me to come across them.

Clematis hirsutissima

Clematis hirsutissima, commonly known as Sugar Bowls.

Watch for Sugar Bowls hiding in green tangles.

Unlike other Clematis species, Sugar Bowls, a member of the Ranunculaceae (Buttercup) family, is not a vine. The flowers are held on erect stems that reach only about two feet high. Leaves are two to three times pinnately compound, and leaflets linear to narrowly lanceolate. These Clematis, again unlike the viney types, tend to move around. Instead of finding them in exactly the same place each year you may find them in another location nearby. And keep your eyes peeled because they are often hiding in a tangle of other vegetation.

Hirsutissima means hairy. Very. Sugar Bowls is covered with fine hairs on both flower and stem. The purple parts are not petals, but sepals. Sepals are one part of the calyx, the outermost whorl of the flower parts. Petals are absent on Clematis hirsutissima. 

Stamens revealed underneath sepals.

 Flowers are urn-shaped, solitary, and the sepals have recurved tips. They are found in shades of violet-blue and very occasionally, white. The fine hairs bestow a beguiling silvery shine. The fruits are plumed achenes, similar to what we are seeing now (late May) on the mature Pulsatilla nuttalliana, or Prairie pasqueflower, which is the reason for another of the common names for Clematis hirsutissima:  Lion’s Beard.

“Be careful!” says the Dark-eyed junco.

This Dark-eyed junco did not cease scolding me the entire time I was carefully trying to take photos of Clematis hirsutissima without damaging them, or any of the other plants nearby. These photos were all taken up on Goshawk Ridge, a Habitat Conservation Area in Boulder. 

Conservation of functionally intact ecosystems is especially important as we strive to protect our remaining biodiversity. 



Sue Dingwell
Media Committee
Colorado Native Plant Society