Clematis vitalba seedheads

Clematis vitalba seedheads

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Credit: DR JEREMY BURGESS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Seedheads of Clematis vitalba. The seedhead at centre shows a cluster of fruits called achenes (rust coloured), each of which contains a single seed. The curving filaments visible are persistent styles from the former flowers. They develop fine hairs along their length (thin bright lines) ensuring dispersal of the seed by wind, and providing buoyancy should the fruit fall into water. The hairy appearance of the seedhead gives the plant its common names, Old Man's Beard and Traveller's Joy. However, it is a competent traveller itself, and in some destinations is regarded as an invasive weed. It is a vigorous perennial woody species that can scramble to 20m in height and smother its support, including large trees. Although a pleasant feature of hedgerows in the UK and Europe, it should not be planted in regions such as New Zealand or the Northwest Pacific states of North America.

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Keywords: achene, clematis vitalba, invasive plant, new zealand, old man's beard, pacific coast usa, pest species, seed, seed dispersal, seedhead, traveller's joy, wind dispersal

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