By: Wendy Langhans
Human beings have an innate need to make sense of things. That’s one reason why we get excited when we recognize a familiar object in an unfamiliar place. I remember my reaction when we came across a McDonald’s restaurant in Tokyo. No - we didn’t eat there - but the sight of it brought a smile to my face. I felt the same way in Berlin last October, as we were walking to an open-air market and came across this fuzzy plant.
“I know that plant!”, I said to my daughter. “It’s some kind of Virgin’s Bower!” After we returned home, I checked it out. It was indeed some kind of Virgin’s Bower - Clematis vitalba - to be precise. This flowering vine can climb up to 90 feet and is native to Europe.
Clematis vitalba is similar to two types of wild clematis commonly found in Southern California:
1) Chaparral Clematis or Virgin’s Bower (Clematis lasiantha )
2) Western Virgin’s Bower (Clematis ligusticifolia )
It was late enough in the year that the clematis had gone to seed, so you could easily see where it got one of it’s other common names: Old Man’s Beard. The grayish wispy tendrils reminded me of an old guy in need of a trim.
Clematis vitalba has another common name that isn’t so obvious: Traveler’s Joy . This name came from the 16th Century British horticulturalist, John Gerrard, who noticed how the climbing vine provided restful shade for hot and weary travelers. So it’s no surprise that it was also given the name Virgin’s Bower  - “a shelter made with tree boughs or vines twined together”.
Nor is it a surprise that German legends tell of how this plant provided shelter for Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus, as they fled from Bethlehem to Egypt. Scripture does not describe the journey in detail, but anyone who’s travelled a long distance with a family knows the value of a good rest stop.
Merry Christmas! May you discover places of rest and joy on your journey.
Upcoming Outdoor Events:
Trail Maintenance Schedule. Come join our volunteers as they help maintain our trails. Contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org  for time and place.
Wednesday mornings, December 7, 14, 21 & 28.
Saturday mornings, December 10.
Saturday, December 17, 8-10 AM. Holiday Birds at Towsley Canyon. The year end has a long tradition of bird watching and counting. Let’s celebrate our local birds on this easy hike. Beginning birders are welcome. Binoculars optional. Meet at Towsley Canyon’s front parking lot. For a map and directions, click here .
Friday, December 23, 8-10 AM. Get the kids out of the house! Pico Canyon. We have just the right plan to get the kids and visiting family out of the house so you can wrap presents. Send them to the park for a couple of hours of fresh air and cool nature stuff. Meet in the parking area at Pico Canyon (opposite historic Mentryville). For a map and directions, click here .
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The SCV Outdoor Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
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