Clematis vitalba (old man's beard)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Clematis vitalba L.
Preferred Common Name
- old man's beard
International Common Names
- English: evergreen clematis; traveller's joy; virgin's bower
- French: clématite des haie; clématite vigne blanche; herbe au gueux
- Portuguese: vide branca
Local Common Names
- Belgium: bosdruif
- Denmark: almindelig skovranke; skovranke
- Finland: saksankärhö
- Germany: Echte Waldrebe; Gemeine Waldrebe; Gewöhnliche Waldrebe; Waldrebe; Weisse Waldrebe
- Italy: clematide; clematide vitalba; vezzadro
- Netherlands: bosrank
- Norway: tysk klematis
- Poland: powójnik pnacy
- Sweden: skogsklematis
- CLVVT (Clematis vitalba)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Ranunculales
- Family: Ranunculaceae
- Genus: Clematis
- Species: Clematis vitalba
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
Leaves are opposite, and almost all comprise five 3-10 cm leaflets with long petioles. Leaflets are variable in size and shape, ovate, acute to acuminate, rounded or sub-cordate at the base, and coarsely toothed or entire (Cronk and Fuller, 1995). Leaves have light- and shade-forms (Kennedy, 1984). The flowers are solitary, in terminal or axillary cymes. Flowers are small (c. 2 cm), white to greenish-white, usually hermaphrodite, and without petals (Clapham et al., 1987). The achenes are compressed, 2.0-2.5 mm long. Each retains a feathery style that is 2-3 cm long. Achenes are produced in large heads.
Plant TypeTop of page
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 17 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present, Widespread||Native|
|Ukraine||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|United Kingdom||Present, Widespread||Native||Invasive|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Anon. (2003)|
|-Ontario||Present||Introduced||Original citation: Anon. (2003)|
|United States||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1830s|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New South Wales||Present, Localized||Introduced|
|New Zealand||Present, Widespread||Introduced||Invasive||First reported: 1920s|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Present, no further details|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Wetlands||Present, no further details|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
Growth StagesTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Several studies confirm that the species is diploid, with 2n=16 chromosomes (Pastor et al., 1984; Ozyurt et al., 1997). C. vitalba has been artificially hybridized with other species to produce vigorous garden varieties such as C. 'jouiniana' (C. vitalba x C. davidiana or C. vitalba x C. heracleifolia) and C. 'Paul Farges' ('summer snow') (C. vitalba x C. potanini).
Physiology and Phenology
Bare stems produce leaves in mid-spring, and stem growth is rapid until flowering begins in mid-summer. Inflorescences continue to form as the stem elongates over summer. Achenes form from late summer, are retained on the plant, and fall in late winter or early spring. In New Zealand, there is phenological variation between sites that appears to be related more to microclimatic conditions than latitude or elevation (West, 1992). Seeds require winter-chilling to maximise germination. Hydrated seeds do not survive long, and the dense feathery seed loads hanging in plants over winter can be regarded as a dry, aerial seed bank from which seeds can fall at any time of year. Optimal germination of C. vitalba requires after-ripening of the seeds at temperatures lower than 15°C, and preferably alternating temperatures (Lhotska, 1974; West, 1992). Optimum temperatures and germination success of C. vitalba seeds varied with the duration of winter after-ripening, and this synchronised germination to the optimum period in spring. Similarly, Czekalski (1987) found that germination of seeds collected from plants in the autumn was poor (0-21%) compared to germination of seeds collected from the same plants in the following spring.
Seedlings form basal rosettes of single or trifoliate leaves, and after several months produce one or more elongating shoots bearing quinquefoliate leaves. Mature leaders grow 2.0-2.5 m per annum on average (West, 1992). C. vitalba can attain densities of over 7000 stems/ha and a fresh weight increment of 6.3 kg/m²/year. Stems at one New Zealand site grew an average 2.3 m in 1 year, producing 20 new nodes, with secondary stems developing from some of these nodes (West, 1992). Stem diameter and stem rings may not be good indicators of age (West, 1991).
Seedlings do not flower before the third year (Kennedy, 1984). Flowers are slightly protandrous. Insects visit C. vitalba flowers, but flowers do not appear to be self-incompatible (West, 1992), and pollination can be successful without the attention of insects. West (1992) recorded an average production of 780 viable seeds/m² per year at one New Zealand site, and found 160-900 seeds/m² in the soil. It was estimated that seed might last as long as 5 years in the soil, but no longer than 10 years.
C. vitalba grows on well-drained, moderately fertile soils (pH 5.5-8.0) and it is unlikely that poorly drained soils or arid areas will support this species. It responds well to the application of lime but is not restricted to calcareous sites. Plants respond to the addition of calcium and phosphorus (Hume et al., 1995) and to nitrogen (Bungard et al., 1998). The growth and spread of C. vitalba may be restricted by extremely acid soil conditions and by very low concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, sulphur and possibly manganese in the soil. However, it does not appear to be unusually sensitive to soil acidity or nutrient deficiencies (Groppe 1991; Hume et al., 1995). It is somewhat tolerant of saline soils.
Seedlings planted within undisturbed forest in New Zealand do not persist, and low irradiance appears to be the primary factor limiting establishment. Under controlled conditions, seedlings achieve maximum growth in full sunlight (100% Ir), substantial growth as low as 10% Ir, and little growth at 3% Ir. Seedlings raised at 1% Ir do not survive (Baars and Kelly, 1996; Bungard et al., 1998). Bungard et al. (1998) studied one forest remnant and suggested that germination and growth in response to light and nitrogen could account for the observed pattern of establishment and success of C. vitalba in New Zealand.
It is generally found in Europe only where annual rainfall is greater than 800 mm, and in New Zealand where rainfall is 800-1600 mm (Atkinson, 1984). Otherwise, little has been published on the climatic limits of C. vitalba.
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC)||16||19|
RainfallTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit||Description|
|Mean annual rainfall||800||1600||mm; lower/upper limits|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
The feathery styles assist wind dispersal of achenes (West, 1991) but propagules can also be spread along watercourses.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
Dumping of garden waste containing C. vitalba vines onto roadsides has been a significant cause of spread in New Zealand (West, 1992). Achenes can be spread by adhesion to animals.
This weed appears to invade along roadsides by seed, possibly aided by the turbulence created by motor vehicles.
C. vitalba is an attractive climber, and was originally introduced to New Zealand, Australia and the USA as an ornamental.
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Fruits (inc. pods)||seeds|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||seeds|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
Social ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Negatively impacts tourism
- Reduced amenity values
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Pest and disease transmission
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
- Graft stock
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control
Sheep grazing will control C. vitalba seedlings and young vines growing at ground level, but potential damage to rare and endangered plants may make this approach questionable in many infested sites (Ogle et al., 2000).
Small seedlings can be removed by hand. Vines can be cut and pulled from trees by hand once the foliage has dried. Roots can be dug out, but should be placed off the ground where they cannot take root again. Treating cut stems with herbicides will also kill crowns and roots (Britt, 1994). Vines growing along the ground can be uprooted, but can regenerate from stem fragments left behind. Foliage trimming has no apparent effect on plants (Britt, 1994).
C. vitalba foliage growing on fencelines, in wasteland, or as a monoculture can be successfully sprayed. A range of herbicides can be used to spray C. vitalba, including glyphosate, imazapyr, metsulfuron (Clay and Dixon, 2000) and clopyralid (Downard, 1986). Herbicide should be applied to pre-flowering foliage from late spring to late summer. Where broadcast spraying could have non-target effects, find the crown, cut the vines to ground level or to waist level in the winter or spring and spray the foliage that regenerates from crowns and stems in late summer. Alternatively, applying full strength herbicide by paint brush or dropper to the cut surface immediately after stems are cut close to the ground will also kill crowns and roots. Ward et al. (2000) found that a gel formulation of picloram was an effective stump treatment. These approaches impact least on surrounding vegetation. Growing in inaccessible areas can make adequate chemical control either too expensive to apply, or unsafe because the weed is interwoven with valued indigenous plants. Nevertheless, aerial spraying of native forest reserves has been conducted on the assumption that possible death of non-target plants from herbicide application is preferable to certain death in the darkness under the canopy of C. vitalba.
Three biological control control agents for C. vitalba have been released in New Zealand. Phytomyza vitalbae (Agromyzidae) was released in 1996, and spread widely (Hill et al., 2001). Laboratory studies suggest that moderate mining of leaves can significantly reduce the growth rate of seedlings, but the impact of this insect on C. vitalba in New Zealand has yet to be fully evaluated. Phoma clematidina (anamorphic Pleosporaceae) was also released in 1996, and is now widespread. This fungus causes leaf and stem necrosis, wilting, premature defoliation, and sometimes girdles stems (Gourlay et al., 2000). Epidemics have been observed, but their impact on C. vitalba infestations has not been measured. The sawfly Monophadnus spinolae (Tenthredinidae) has been released widely in New Zealand, but there is no evidence of establishment (Gourlay et al., 2000).
C. vitalba grows rampantly on alluvial soils and over riparian vegetation. It is important to treat upstream infestations first to restrict re-invasion by water- and wind-blown seed.
ReferencesTop of page
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Timmins S, 1984. Weeds in National Parks and Reserves., Wellington, New Zealand: Department of Conservation.
Trémolières M, Schnitzler A, Sánchez-Pérez J M, Schmitt D, 1999. Changes in foliar nutrient content and resorption in Fraxinus excelsior L., Ulmus minor Mill. and Clematis vitalba L. after prevention of floods. Annals of Forest Science. 56 (8), 641-650.
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