Introducing the Leafless Clematis 

Leafless clematis - at home on Kaitorete Spit.

Leafless clematis – at home on Kaitorete Spit. Photograph courtesy of Christchurch photographer, Steve Attwood.

New Zealand has eight to ten native clematis species. One of those is the leafless clematis (Clematis afoliata), which has made itself at home on the wild, thin stretch of land known as Kaitorete Spit, near Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

This peculiar, leafless species, in which the leaves appear as spirally coiled petioles only, is often found in open, rocky scrublands in the southern half of the North Island and, in the South Island, in tussocky grasslands.

Stems grow up to three metres long and are stiff, wiry and grooved. These stems often form large bundles with an appearance like a large tangle of wire or string. Although it features small, creamy-white flowers from October through November, for most of the year it resembles a wiry tangle.

Although it is not threatened, the leafless clematis is under pressure from development in some areas. Competition with naturalised plants also poses a threat to regeneration in some places.