Naturalist Newsletter of March 3, 2008
written in the community of 28 de Junio, in the Central Valley,
8 kms east of Pujiltic, Chiapas, MÉXICO
about 800 meters in elevation, ± LAT. 16° 18'N, LONG. -92° 28'W.
Here and there along woods edges you see refrigerator-size masses of white fuzz, and when the fuzz lies between you and the sun it's a translucent eyeful. The fuzz adorns fruits of clematis vines, also called Virgins-Bower, members of the Buttercup Family, shown below:
In the picture's upper right corner the inset shows a head of whiskered fruits, the whole cluster developing from a single clematis blossom. The fuzz threads atop the fruits serve as parachutes to help the fruits disperse on wind the same way dandelion fruits do with their own parachutes. Dandelions are members of the Sunflower or Composite Family while Clematises are members of the very unrelated Buttercup Family, so the similarities are purely the result of convergent evolution.
Clematis is just one of very many plants fruiting here during the last few weeks of the dry season. Fruits and seeds dispersed now will be well positioned to sprout when the rains came.
Breedlove's Flora of Chiapas lists four Clematis species. The most common one is Clematis dioica, which the one in the picture well may be. Mexicans often call abundantly white-fuzzed fruiting vines "Barbas de Chivo," which means "Goat's Beards" or "Cabeza de Viejo," "Old-man's Head."
Las Plantas Medicinales de México reports that powdered clematis roots are a "magnificent diuretic," expelling kidney stones.