CPC Plant Profile: Arizona Leatherflower
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Plant Profile

Arizona Leatherflower (Clematis hirsutissima var. arizonica)

The purple, nodding, bell-shaped flowers of the Arizona leatherflower. Photo Credit: Joyce Maschinski
Description
  • Global Rank: T2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: N/A
  • Family: Ranunculaceae
  • State: AZ, NM, NN
  • Nature Serve ID: 148849
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 04/04/1991

This taxon's standing as a true variety has been called into question, and a morphological study showed that there was no clear difference between this variety (var. arizonica) and the more common variety (var. hirsutissima). (Pringle 1997) However, the U.S. Forest Service lists it as a sensitive species. Arizona leatherflower is an herbaceous perennial understory species with purple nodding bell-shaped flowers. It is found on limestone outcroppings in ponderosa pine forest. Plants are 20-70 cm high with erect, weak, or trailing stems emerging from a somewhat woody base. Leaves are pinnately compound with 7-13 leaflets. The showy purple flowers are displayed individually at the end of each stem and become heads of golden feathery seeds in late summer. These plants may be a great indicator of forest health. Their greatest reproduction occurs in intermediate shade with little forest litter. Extremely heavy shade reduces growth and reproduction, but full sun can dry seeds and plants. In the ponderosa pine forest, this species faces threats including timber harvest, controlled thinning and burning, cattle and elk grazing, and development. (Maschinski & Phillips 1993)

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Updates
  • 09/04/2020
  • Propagation Research

Seed germination of Arizona leatherflower is extremely slow, as is true with many members of the buttercup family. Propagation from stem and root cuttings has not been successful thus far, therefore there is a need to refine propagation techniques.

  • 09/04/2020
  • Demographic Research

Pringle (1997) completed a floristic review of the genus Clematis in North America, and found no clear differences between C. hirsutissima var. arizonica and C. hirsutissima var. hirsutissima. In response to this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the species from candidate status, as Clematis hirsutissima var. hirsutissima is a widespread taxon. (USFWS 1998)

  • 09/04/2020
  • Reproductive Research

Previous research on this species involved examining the effects of timber harvest and grazing by cattle and elk on growth and reproduction. Maschinski examined the impact of forest thinning and controlled burning on the Arizona leatherflower populations. (Maschinski 2000)

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

Endemic to northern Arizona and adjacent New Mexico; rare throughout range.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

As stated by (Kolb & Maschinski 1996), threats include: timber harvesting grazing by cattle and elk recreational activities land development

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

In Arizona there are approximately 1500 individuals. Since the taxa has been lumped with the widespread species the distribution and population numbers have expanded greatly.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Previous research on this species involved examining the effects of timber harvest and grazing by cattle and elk on growth and reproduction. Maschinski examined the impact of forest thinning and controlled burning on the Arizona leatherflower populations. (Maschinski 2000) Pringle (1997) completed a floristic review of the genus Clematis in North America, and found no clear differences between C. hirsutissima var. arizonica and C. hirsutissima var. hirsutissima. In response to this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the species from candidate status, as Clematis hirsutissima var. hirsutissima is a widespread taxon. (USFWS 1998)

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Arizona leatherflower is being managed as a Forest Service Sensitive species on the Coconino National Forest. Activities that may threaten the species are scrutinized by the USFS. Most recently there is concern about the impact of wildfire and controlled burns.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

The potential impact of exotic species on Arizona leatherflower is a critical concern. Noxious weeds are spreading into Arizona leatherflower habitat and current plans to do thinning and prescribed burning may exacerbate the spread of weeds into the habitat.

Joyce Maschinski, Ph.D.
  • 01/01/2010

Seed germination of Arizona leatherflower is extremely slow, as is true with many members of the buttercup family. Propagation from stem and root cuttings has not been successful thus far, therefore there is a need to refine propagation techniques.

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Clematis hirsutissima var. arizonica
Authority (A. Keller) R.O. Erickson
Family Ranunculaceae
CPC Number 1001
ITIS 527421
USDA CLHIA
Common Names Arizona leatherflower | Arizona clematis
Associated Scientific Names Clematis hirsutissima var. arizonica | Clematis hirsutissima var. hirsutissima | Clematis hirsutissima
Distribution B.C. Canada to northern Arizona.Similar Species: the typical variety has narrower leaflets (1-2 mm), smaller flowers, and a 90 degree angle of mature petioles to the stem.Notes: Erickson rec
State Rank
State State Rank
Arizona SNR
New Mexico SNR
Navajo Nation 4
Habitat

In Arizona, the taxa most commonly grows on soils derived from Kaibab limestone in small colonies in ponderosa pine forests sometimes covering only fractions of an acre. Requires only moderate shade.Northern reaches of the species habitat is mixed conifer forest and much more mesic than the Arizona populations experience.

Ecological Relationships

In overgrown """"dog-hair thicket"""" ponderosa pine forests, where shade exceeds 75% and forest litter depths can approach 12 inches or 29 cm, Arizona leatherflower has poor growth, seed production and seedling establishment. However, in habitats with full-sun, seeds dry out and the population will not persist.

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID
Bees
Bees Confirmed Pollinator Link
Butterflies & Moths
Azures Celastrina humulus Floral Visitor Link
Reintroduction
Lead Institution State Reintroduction Type Year of First Outplanting

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