Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Curlyheads - Clematis ochroleuca   Aiton
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Section 6 » Order Ranunculales » Family Ranunculaceae
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AuthorAiton
DistributionNearly throughout the Piedmont; but barely present in the mountains, known only from one (Graham) county there. A record from New Hanover County along the southern coast is open to question. Probably absent elsewhere in the Coastal Plain.

This species has a rather limited range, essentially from MD to GA and mostly in the Piedmont, though ranging into the low mountains of VA. Disjunct to Long Island, NY.
AbundanceInfrequent to locally fairly common in the Piedmont, except very rare in the northwestern corner and also the southeastern corner. Perhaps has declined considerably, as Blomquist and Oosting (1959) call it "Common" in the Piedmont. Extremely rare in the southwestern mountains.
HabitatThis is generally an obligate high pH soil species, of dry conditions. It usually is found in glades and barrens, along dry wooded borders, and in openings in such open woods. Where it grows, there are often several other rare or uncommon "prairie plant" species.
See also Habitat Account for Basic Barrens and Glades
PhenologyBlooms from April into June.
IdentificationThis is the only native Clematis in NC that is an erect herb, and not a vine. Thus, it really has no other species with which it can be confused. It has only a few pairs of opposite leaves on an essentially unbranched, hairy stem that reaches only about 1 foot tall. The leaves are nearly sessile, quite large, widely ovate to elliptic and about 5 inches long and half as wide, with a rounded tip and entire margins. The flower is solitary at the end of the stem, though there can be one or two other branches near the top of the stem to add another flower or two to a given plant. This flower has mainly 4 thick, fleshy sepals that are pale purple to pale yellow on the outside and pale yellow on the inside; they form an urn shape with slightly spreading tips, appearing nearly "unopened". The flowers are drooping on gracefully arching pedicels and about 1 inch long. After flowering, a large "curly-head" ball is formed that can be about 2 inches across, giving rise to the common name. This ball-like fruit is borne on an erect stalk. Though the species could be overlooked when only in leaf, when in flower, with the dangling pale yellowish flowers, it is quite noticeable, especially as a handful normally grow in a clump. Biologists who spend a moderate amount of time on drier circumneutral soils, such as at sites on Iredell soils, should be quite familiar with Curlyheads; however, as acidic soils dominate the Piedmont, you do not randomly encounter this species in most field work.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

Other Common Name(s)Silky Leatherflower
State RankS3 [S4]
Global RankG4
State StatusW6
US Status
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