Following on yesterday’s posting on agapanthus (roughly ‘flower of love’), here are a few more plants of love. Five plants that I grew back in Columbus.

First, two genuses of plants with the Greek ‘love’ root phil- in their scientific names: Philodendron and Philadelphus.

Anggrek Dendrobium Butter Cup. Anggrek Dendrobium Wonleng. WIJAYA KUSUMA KRIS MERAH - BIBIT epiphyllum chrysocardium. Anggrek seedling dendro. Virginia Tech Dendrology is THE source for tree identification.

From OED3 (June 2011) on philodendron:

[etymology] < scientific Latin Philodendron, genus name (H. W. Schott 1829, in Wien. Zeitschr. 3 780) < Hellenistic Greek ϕιλόδενδρον, neuter of ϕιλόδενδρος fond of trees ( < ancient Greek ϕιλοphilo- comb. form + δένδρον tree: see dendro-comb. form), in reference to the epiphytic habit of most members of the genus.

[definition] A genus of tropical American evergreen plants (family Araceae), chiefly lianas, some species and hybrids of which are cultivated as house plants

Philodendron serves as the common name of the plants. Here’s a classic house plant species:

and a climbing Philodendron lacerum:

From OED3 (Dec. 2005) on philadelphus:

[etymology] < scientific Latin Philadelphus, genus name (Linnaeus Species Plantarum (1753) I. 470) < post-classical Latin philadelphus (C. Bauhin Πιναξ Theatri Botanici (1623) 398) < ancient Greek ϕιλάδελϕος loving one’s brother (see philadelphianadj.1 and n.1), in Hellenistic Greek also used as a plant name.

[definition] A genus of the family Hydrangeaceae, comprising chiefly deciduous shrubs with fragrant white or cream flowers, native to north temperate zones; … any plant of this genus, esp. the popular garden shrub P. coronarius and its numerous cultivars and hybrids. Also called mock orange, syringa.


No account of why the plant came to be the flower of brotherly love in Hellenistic Greek.

Here’s a photo of the species P. lewisii in bloom:

Now on to three plants with love in one of their common names: love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), lad’s love (Artemisia abrotanum), and love lies bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus).

From the Wikipedia entry for Nigella damascena:

Nigella damascena (Love-in-a-mist) is an annual garden flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae).

It is native to southern Europe (but adventive in more northern countries of Europe), north Africa and southwest Asia. It is also commonly grown in gardens in North America. It is found on neglected, damp patches of land.

The plant’s common name comes from the flower being nestled in a ring of multifid, lacy bracts. It’s also sometimes called Devil-in-the-Bush.

(Multifid in OED3: ‘Divided into several or many parts by deep clefts or notches’.)

So the flowers are symbols of female genitals. A photo:

The plant self-sows freely, comes in a variety of colors, and cross-breeds easily.

From the Wikipedia entry for southernwood:

Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) is a flowering plant. Found in Europe, the genus Artemisia was named for the goddess Artemis. Southernwood is known by many other names including Old Man, Boy’s Love, Oldman Wormwood, Lover’s Plant, Appleringie, Garderobe, Our Lord’s Wood, Maid’s Ruin, Garden Sagebrush, European Sage, Lad’s Love, Southern Wormwood, Sitherwood and Lemon Plant.

… The Romans believed it protected men from impotence. It is also said that young men in areas like Spain and Italy rubbed fresh southernwood leaves (which were lemon-scented) on their faces to promote the growth of a beard.

In rural areas, where southernwood was known as Lad’s Love and Maid’s Ruin, the herb acquired a reputation for increasing young men’s virility. It was popularly employed in love potions and adolescent boys rubbed an ointment on their cheeks to speed up the growth of facial hair. It is associated with sexual appeal and has been used by males to increase their virility. Southernwood was put under mattresses in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome to rouse lust in their occupants. Its common nickname, Lad’s Love, refers to the habit of including a spray of the plant in country bouquets presented by lovers to their lasses in order to seduce them. It was used in medieval times.

It’s a wonderful scent herb, with an interesting texture in the garden (even if it doesn’t have the sexual powers once attributed to it). A photo (taken by Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky) from my Columbus garden:

Finally, love lies bleeding. From the Wikipedia entry:

Amaranthus caudatus is a species of annual flowering plant. It goes by common names such as love-lies-bleeding, love-lies-a’bleeding, pendant amaranth, tassel flower, velvet flower, foxtail amaranth, and quelite.

The amaranths supply seeds that can be ground into a flour and also dyes.

In a photo:

A decidedly phallic plant.

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Dendrobium Buttercup

Name: Clematis ternifloraDC.

Family: Ranunculaceae, the crowfoot or buttercup family

Common Names: Sweet-autumn clematis and autumn clematis, yam-leaved clematis, sweet autumn virgin’s bower and autumn virgin’s bower, leatherleaf clematis, Japanese clematis (1,3,5,7).

Etymology: Clematis comes from the greek word clema (a shoot), and refers to a climbing plant with slender stems. The species name terniflora, in Latin means “flowers in 3’s” (10,11).

Botanical synonyms (1):
Clematis dioscoreifolia H. Lév. & Vaniot
C. maximowicziana Franch. & Sav.
C. paniculata Thunb.

Quick Notable Features (2,3,11):
¬ Climbing plant with opposite, compound leaves with 5 entire leaflets (toothed on young plants)
¬ Leaflets coriaceous, mostly glabrous, basally cordate and apically round
¬ Flowers fragrant, white, bisexual or functionally unisexual
¬ Flattened achene topped with a long plume

Plant Height: Usually growing to 3-6m tall (3).

Dendro buttercup

Subspecies/varieties recognized (1):
C. terniflora var. boninensis (Hayata) W.T. Wang
C. terniflora var. denticulate (Nakai) U.C.La
C. terniflora var. garanbiensis (Hayata) M.C. Chang
C. terniflora var. lancifolia (Nakai) U.C.La
C. terniflora var. latisepala M.C. Chang
C. terniflora var. mandshurica (Rupr.) Ohwi
C. terniflora var. manshurica (Rupr.) Ohwi
C. terniflora var. robusta (Carrière) Tamura
C. terniflora var. robusta T.S. Liu & C.F. Hsieh

Most Likely Confused with: Clematis occidentalis, C. virginiana, Dioscorea villosa, Smilax rotundifolia, and S. lasioneura.

Habitat Preference: C. terniflora is widely cultivated as an ornamental, and when escaped, it is found on roadsides and other disturbed habitats, and near creeks. The species is shade tolerant, although it prefers sunny sites, and thrives in well-drained, moist soils (2,3,7,8).

Geographic Distribution in Michigan: The species is found in Genesee, Washtenaw and recently in Allegan, counties (2).

Known Elevational Distribution: In the United States, the species grows to elevations up to 1000m a.s.l. In Yunnan, China, it was recorded at 3150m above sea level (3,4).

Complete Geographic Distribution: Native to China, Korea, and Japan. In the United States, it is found in almost all eastern states (AL, AR, CA, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MA, MD, MN, MO, MS, NC, NE, NH, NJ, NY, OH, OK, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WV), and in Ontario, Canada (2,3,5).

Vegetative Plant Description: C. terniflora is a perennial woody vine with semi-evergreen leaves. The mature bark is light brown and shreds longitudinally, the shallowly-grooved stems are 0.2-1.5cm in diameter (seldomly to 10cm in diameter) with nodes evident long after leaves have abscised. The leaves are opposite and pinnately compound with 5 leaflets (occasionally 3 or 7); the petiole is 2.4-4.5cm long. Each leaflet is entire (toothed on young plants), coriaceous, round-ovate to suborbicular, apically round and basally cordate. The blades are glabrous or sparingly pubescent along the main veins (palmate), 2.5-10cm long and 1-6cm broad (2,3,7,10,11,13,14).

Climbing Mechanism: The petioles and leaf rachis are sensitive, twisting around supporting plants, allowing C. terniflora to climb (3,6).

Dendro Butter Cupcakes

Flower Description: The inflorescence is an axillary, corymbose or cymose panicle with 3-12 flowers subtended by 2 linear to oblong bracts (0.8-3.5cm long). The peduncles are 1-7cm long and pedicels1-3.5cm long. The 4(-5) spreading petaloid sepals are white, fragrant, and pubescent below; each sepal is 0.5-1.7cm long and 0.3-0.5cm broad, and linear to narrow obovate. Petals and petaloid staminodes are absent. Each flower can be bisexual, or pistillate flowers may bear sterile stamens and staminate may bear undeveloped pistils. There are approximately 50 stamens with glabrous filaments, and the anthers are 2-4mm long. The 5-10 pistils are uni-carpellate and the styles are long and plumose; the ovary is superior (2,3,11,13,14).

Flowering Time: The species usually flowers from July to October, although some flowering may occur year round in warmer regions (3,8,14).

Pollinator: The fragrant flowers attract insects, especially bees and flies (8).

Fruit Type and Description: The fruit is a flattened achene, 0.4-0.9cm long and 0.2-0.6cm broad, with silky flat-lying hairs. The fruit is orange-yellow to brown with conspicuous edges, topped with a white to silvery style plume (2-6cm long) (2,3,7,11,13).

Seed Description: The seeds are enclosed by the achenes, and can take up to 9 months to germinate. Like other members of the Ranunculaceae, the albumen is hard and the embryo very small (7,11).

Dispersal Syndrome: The seeds (inside the achenes) are dispersed by wind with assistance from the plumes (12).

Distinguished by: Clematis occidentalis has trifoliolate leaves, but the leaflet apices are acuminate, not round. Flowering specimens of C. occidentalis are easy to distinguish based on their purple, solitary flowers. C. virginiana has marginally toothed leaflets, whereas the leaflets are mostly entire in C. terniflora. The white flowers in C. virginiana are similar to those of C. terniflora, however, they are always unisexual and adaxially pubescent; C. virginiana’s are bisexual and adaxially glabrous. Dioscorea villosa is an herbaceous vine with alternate, simple, cordate leaves (basal leaves occasionally whorled). The flowers of D. villosa are minute and unisexual, and produce capsules with winged seeds, not achenes. Smilax rotundifolia is an herbaceous vine with armed stems (unarmed in C. terniflora), alternate and simple leaves that are not glabrous adaxially, climbing using tendrils. The inflorescences are umbels bearing minute yellowish flowers that produce dark berries. S. lasioneura stems are herbaceous, leaves similar to those of S. rotundifolia but puberulent, the umbels bear 20-100+ minute flowers and the fruits are black berries (2,3,11).

Other members of the family in Michigan (number species):Aconitum (1), Actaea (3), Anemone (5), Aquilegia (2), Caltha (2), Clematis (2), Consolida (1), Coptidium (1), Coptis (1), Delphinium (1), Enemion (1), Ficaria (1), Halerpestes (1), Helleborus (2), Hepatica (2), Hydrastis (1), Myosurus (1), Nigella (1), Ranunculus (18), Thalictrum (6) (source 2).

Ethnobotanical Uses: Members of the genus Clematis are known to be toxic, so caution is advised when consuming it. However, it is reported that young stems can be eaten when cooked. Buds (not specified if flower or vegetative buds) and flowers can be parboiled and cooked or stir-fried. Chinese and Japanese medicines use the underground parts of a few Clematis species, including C. terniflora var. mandshurica, as anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and to treat tumors; in Korea, the same variety is used to treat dysentery, neuralgia, and menstruation/vaginal problems (8,9).

Dendro Butter Cups

Phylogenetic Information: The genus Clematis is a member of the subfamily Ranunculoideae within the Ranunculaceae family. The Ranunculaceae is included in the Ranunculales, which includes approximately 1.6% of all known eudicots (6). Clematis is part of the tribe Anemoneae, together with a few other genera including Anemone and Ranunculus (15).

Interesting Quotation or Other Interesting Factoid not inserted above: Cultivated in the U.S. since 1877, C. terniflora has naturalized in many states, and it is often considered an invasive species, capable of killing saplings and sometimes fully grown trees (7). C. terniflora inhibits the growth of other plants, especially legumes (8).

Literature and websites used:

  1. Missouri Botanical Garden. 25 Jan 2013 <>
  2. Michigan Flora Online. A.A. Reznicek, E.G. Voss, & B.S. Walters. February 2011. University of Michigan. Web. January 25, 2013.
  3. Flora of North America Editorial Committee, eds. 1993+. Flora of North America North of Mexico. 16+ vols. New York and Oxford.
  4. Global Biodiversity Information Facility Website. Accessed: 25 January 2013.
  5. USDA, NRCS. 2013. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1, National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA. Accessed January 25, 2013
  6. Stevens, P. F. (2001 onwards). Angiosperm Phylogeny Website. Version 12, July 2012
  7. Meisenburg, M., K. Langeland, & K. Vollmer 2012. Japanese clematis, Clematis terniflora (D.C.) Ranunculaceae – Publication #SS AGR 309. University of Florida IFAS Extension.
  8. Plants For A Future, 1996-2012. Accessed: 26 January 2013.
  9. Shi, S., D. Jiang, C. Dong, & P. Tu 2006. New phenolic glycosides from Clematis mandshurica. Helvetica Chimica Acta 89(5): 1023-1029.
  10. Seiler, J., E. Jensen, A. Niemiera, & J. Peterson 2012. Sweetautumn clematis. Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.
  11. Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray’s Manual of Botany, 8th ed. New York: American Book Company.
  12. Swearingen, J., B. Slattery, K. Reshetiloff, & S. Zwicker. 2010. Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas, 4th ed. National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, DC.
  13. Wencai, W. & B. Bartholomew 2001. Flora of China, Vol. 6: 29. Clematis.
  14. Langeland, K. & M. Meisenburg 2009. Herbicide evaluation to control Clematis terniflora invading natural areas in Gainesville, Florida. Invasive Plant Science and Management 2(1): 70-73.
  15. Kosuge, K., K. Sawada, T. Denda, J. Adachi, & K. Watanabe 1995. Phylogenetic relationships of some genera in the Ranunculaceae based on alcohol dehydrogenase genes. Plant Systematics and Evolution Supplement 9(9): 263-271.

Image Credits (all used with permission):

  • Image of habit courtesy of Richard Webb, Self-employed horticulurist,
  • Image of stem and leaves courtesy of Gerrit Davidse (
  • Image of flowers courtesy of David G. Smith, (non-commercial)
  • Image of fruits courtesy of Will Cook at
  • Species distribution map, derived from the Michigan Flora Online.

Primary Author: Cristine V. Santanna with revisions and editing by John Bradtke and Robyn J. Burnham.

Dendro Butter Cupcake

© Robyn J. Burnham

Dendro Butter Cups

For additional information on Michigan Plant Diversity species accounts, please contact Robyn J. Burnham via email: rburnham“at”