Our Official Flower: The Purple Clematis



The purple clematis, known technically as clematis jackmanii, was selected by the 1924-1925 Ekklesia as the official flower of Phi Gamma Delta. It replaced the purple heliotrope.

The royal purple color and the star-like shape of the flowers, characters which are symbolic and significant to all loyal Fijis, make it the fraternity flower par excellence.

Clematis is the genus name of the group of plants commonly known as virgin's bower and belongs to the crowfoot (ranunculaceae) family of plants. About 20 species are native to North America. Clematis jackmanii is a hybrid species which was introduced in 1862 and still remains the most popular and the most valuable purple-flowered clematis known. It climbs to a height of five or more feet and has leaves which vary from simple to trifoliate. The blades of the leaves and leaflets are heart-shaped with elongated tips and have epidermal hairs so as to make them more or less wooly underneath. The flowers are flat and vary from five to six inches diameter.

Clematises grow best in a rich soil of a light, loamy character which contains some lime. The soil must be well-drained and must be kept highly fertile by annual applications of horse-manure or cow-manure. Cow-manure is preferable in dry, hot soils, while a good dressing of leaf mold is best in heavy soils. The general vigor of the plant and the size of the flowers are increased by mulching the plants with half-rotted manure on the approach of winter. The plants are benefited by spraying during the growing period in dry seasons.

Clematis vines should be pruned in November by cutting away all weak, straggling and over-crowded branches. Flowers appear on the new shoots which grow out in the spring, so that proper pruning is of exceedingly great importance. Clematis jackmanii may be grown over walls, root-fences, mounds, arbors, balconies, trellises, small buildings and lawn swings which are big enough for one and strong enough for two. It is important that the vines have a firm wooden or metal support to prevent them from being whipped about by the wind and broken off at the ground. If the vines are not properly supported the bark is apt to be cracked and the plants are thus open to the attacks of insects and fungous diseases. Clematis may also be grown in greenhouses.

Clematis jackmanii may be propagated by grafting scions on stocks of clematis flammula or clematis viticella. Scions are best taken from plants that have been grown under glass, and should be used before the wood is entirely matured. Also cuttings of nearly matured wood, taken from plants grown under glass, placed in sand in May or June, are recommended. When old stocks are available, new plants may be produced by layering. The stem should be twisted until the bark cracks longitudinally. Every second node should be thus twisted, pegged down, and covered with ground and left until the following spring. Clematis jackmanii cannot be propagated by seed, as it is sterile, due, no doubt, to its hybrid origin.

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