Clematis baldwinii (Clema- comes from Greek for a plant shoot, William Baldwin was an American Botanist active in the 1800s.)
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup Family)
With nature study, go looking for one thing, find something else. That’s a good thing. Working on John’s and my guide booklet to local woody plants had me seeking Persimmons to photograph in swampy pine woods. Well lookee there, Pine-Hyacinth, a fancy spring-blooming floral friend you don’t see every day. Not remotely related to true Hyacinths, P-H is in the Buttercup family, the only native Ranunculaceae in Palm Beach County. It is limited to Florida.
Nodding beauties by John Bradford
The flowers hang down from a J-shaped stem. Nodding flowers are a pretty curiosity scattered through the plant world among unrelated plants. Most botanists who have commented on dangling flowers agree they are umbrellas protecting pollen from sun, rain, and related perils, and/or protecting nectar from rain dilution.
Flower color varies
More interesting, if speculative, are additional possible advantages for nodding. Suggestions by other observers include:
1. Favoring floral visits by bumblebees who can navigate inversion, excluding floral pests who can’t handle upside down. The big curled “petal” (actually sepal) tips may be bee handles.
2. Temperature control. Maybe the bells capture warm air rising from the ground, although not a likely “concern” in Florida in April?
3. Maybe the hook on the stem can push upward through forest floor debris protectively preceding the delicate flower. It “elbows” the competitors.
The fruits are fuzzy spider legs, by JB. Look closely—the formerly hooked stem has straightened out.
Nobody I can find on Google has studied the reproductive biology of this species. Based on similar related Clematis species, the flowers are probably female-before male, and there may be an overlap period where self pollination can occur at the end of the female phase for assured seed set. What is certain, the plant has an unusual way to clone: late in the flowering phase the stem flops to sprawl as sort of a “rhizome,” allowing the Pine-Hyacinth to spread by creeping.
Sprawling. Flower is on the left.