“Nobody plants sweet autumn clematis twice. Plant it the first time and it will always be with you.”

Sweet autumn clematis is well known for its vitality and ability to spread. Warnings from wise and learned gardeners abound on the interwebs. One observer explained the plant’s growth pattern this way: “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.”

Another insisted that it is “far too rambunctious for a normal trellis.”

It is hard to argue that this is the modus operandi of a species of clematis that found its way from Asia to America and has worked its way across the country. Autumn clematis allegedly came to this country in 1877 as an ornamental via seeds sent to Boston’s Arnold Arboretum, and has over time become naturalized. It is confusingly known by multiple scientific names, including Clematis tenifolia, paniculate, maximowicziana and dioscoreifolis.

Autumn clematis is one of hundreds of clematis species, most of which are well loved and easily managed.

This one, however, is the subject of mixed feelings. It is attractive to look at, with small, fragrant and abundantwhite flowers growing enthusiastically on vines, blanketing stone walls and hanging appealingly on shrubs, trees and utility poles. It provides late-season interest and scent when many other plants are beginning their fall decline.

The flip side is that this clematis can be invasive in some places, reproduces with abandon, and can overtake other native plants. In many states, it is on the invasive species lists, though not on ours. This clematis is self-seeding and can spread horizontally and vertically, known to reach heights of 30 feet. When managed, pruning can keep autumn clematis under control, though once it escapes cultivations, all bets for management are off.

When faced with an invasive species, I always wonder if I can eat it to beat it. With its delicious vanilla scent, I had high hopes for autumn clematis. And I did find one source that identifies it as edible, with options to consume the leaves (boiled and stir fried), buds (pickled), and flowers (cooked, but never raw).

Health effects were even promoted, noting that it was used for treatment of corneal opacities. However, other sites noted its toxicity, so my vision of consumption was quickly rejected in favor of safety. Another source insisted that cats and dogs have adverse reactions to its consumption and it is also deer resistant, so it seems no one should eat it.

Beauty perhaps meets the beast. I am on the fence about this beautiful bully, and will let my back-page compatriot, garden columnist Lynne Irons, have the last word on sweet autumn clematis. Although it seems to be a mixed bag of benefits and detriments, she smartly suggested in a past column that, “it is endlessly more desirable than bittersweet.”

Suzan Bellincampi is director of the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Edgartown, and author of Martha’s Vineyard: A Field Guide to Island Nature and The Nature of Martha’s Vineyard.