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Plant of the Month

Clematis morefieldii Kral (Morefield's leatherflower) is a federally-endangered vine described in 1987 by the now retired Vanderbilt University professor emeritus, Dr. Robert Kral. Kral named the species after a student who found the vine in his hometown of Huntsville, AL. That student, James Morefield, was so inspired by the event that he became a botanist himself. This vine is found only on rocky wooded limestone slopes on the dissected southwestern escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau. Until 2003, the species was known only from about 10 populations in two counties in Alabama (Madison and Jackson Co.). In 2003, Tennessee botanists Chris Fleming and Dwayne Estes discovered the species in Tennessee for the first time just a couple of miles north of the state line in southern Franklin Co. Subsequent surveys by the Tennessee Natural Heritage Program staff led to the discovery of many more populations in Tennessee in Franklin and Grundy counties. Where this vine grows there are often other rare plants around, including one of the rarest trees in eastern North America, the American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus), the rare shrub Alabama snowwreath (Neviusia alabamensis), limerock viburnum (Viburnum bracteatum), and the newly described Kral's beardtongue (Penstemon kralii).