A deciduous climber, said to be only 6 ft high in nature. Leaves either simple or composed of three leaflets, which are heart-shaped at the base, pointed at the apex, up to 5 in. long by 3 in. wide, of thick texture, covered beneath with a thick, soft, grey wool, glabrous above; stalks 3 to 6 in. long, downy. Flowers 4 to 6 in. across, produced at the end of the shoots on woolly stalks which have no bracts. Sepals normally six, but often seven or eight; oval or obovate, overlapping and fully expanded; very downy behind, varying in cultivated varieties from white to pale lilac. Seed-vessels with long silky tails.
This clematis was originally introduced to cultivation by Robt. Fortune, who found it near Ningpo, China, in 1850. Although allied in a botanical sense to C. patens and C. florida, it is amply distinct in its dwarfer habit, large flowers with overlapping sepals, and the very woolly, often simple leaves and woolly flower-stalks. Also, it bears its flowers successionally from late spring into the autumn, in contrast to the other two Asiatic allies, which, if left unpruned, bear their main crop before midsummer. Although the species is very rare in cultivation, if not extinct, there must be few large-flowered garden clematises that do not have its blood in them. The first crosses using it as a parent were made by Isaac Anderson-Henry and of these two, ‘Lawsoniana’ and ‘Henryana’, both with ‘Fortunei’ (see C. florida) as the pollen parent, are still in cultivation today.
The Lanuginosa group of clematises, as originally defined, comprised those hybrids which bear their flowers in succession on short lateral shoots from the current season’s stems, from midsummer onwards. However, the distinction between this and the Florida and Patens groups was never well marked and has largely disappeared. Most of the group as now understood bear a crop of flowers in early summer and may be left unpruned; if pruned in spring the full flush will be had in mid- and late-summer.