Travellerís joy - The Clematis Brachiata

The unusual Clematis 'travellerís joy' is part of the buttercup family (formally known as the Ranunculaceae family). It is also known as the travellerís joy, the old manís beard, klimop, lemoensbloeisels and ityolo (which is a Xhosa word).

Did you know? The entire Cape Floral Kingdom is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its outstanding processes in terms of ecology and biology, which is particularly due to the Fynbos biome, and its sheer diversity and abundance within such a confined area.

The Clematis genus is made up of about 230 different species, only four of which are found in southern Africa.

Description

The Clematis brachiata is a climber, and can reach an impressive five metres in height when it has an adequate support structure up which to scramble.

The flowers are white or cream in colour and have five petals that culminate in a sharp point. In the centre of these petals is a fluffy burst of yellow stamens, which give the entire plant the appearance of having been sprinkled liberally with snow. The woody stems are thin, and the flowers give off a delightfully sweet scent.

Flowering time

The pretty flowers of the Clematis brachiata make their appearance during the late summer and autumn months (usually February to May). Once the flowers die off in the winter months, white puffs of seed heads emerge and last until about August.

Use in the garden

The Clematis brachiata is called the travellerís joy because of its perceived medicinal value, giving ailing travellers a relief from a number of maladies along their journey. The leaves were put into the shoes of those that discovered this plant in the wild to help with easing blisters and pain. They were even packed under the saddle to treat the horse for friction-induced blistering.

A tea made from these leaves is believed to treat headaches, colds, stomach problems, chest illnesses, cracked skin, and red eyes (when cooled and used as a wash for the eyes). Boiling water poured over the roots, stems and leaves and inhaled as steam is also used as a treatment for malaria, sinus and asthma. Adding the leaves to your bath can ease sore, tired muscles.

Natural distribution

This is a South African plant that is commonly found in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and Limpopo.

Growing Clematis brachiata in your garden

This hardy, deciduous plant is easy to grow, requiring only that you place it near a tree or trellis up which it can clamber. It can also form a light ground cover, thanks to its natural tendency to spread.

It does not require a specific soil acidity level and can be left unwatered during the winter months. It does well in sunny and semi-shady spots. It is able to endure a range of different climates, from hot and balmy to cool and dry.

Propagation

Naturally, the Clematis brachiata is propagated by its seeds, which have a feathery tail that enables them to be picked up by the wind and carried further afield. This is an effective means of spreading their reach as far as possible. It can also be grown manually from seeds, which should be planted in the spring months (September to November). Semi-hardwood cuttings are effective in terms of propagation if they are planted during the summer.

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