Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide


Clematis vitalba
(old man's beard)



Clematis vitalba (old man's beard)


  • Last modified
  • 06 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Host Plant
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Clematis vitalba
  • Preferred Common Name
  • old man's beard
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Dicotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • C. vitalba produces many seeds that are wind dispersed, and it is a strong colonizer of disturbed ground. It is a fast-growing vine with the ability to climb up and bring down tall trees and reduce standing forests to impenetrable low-growing infesta...
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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

EPPO code

  • CLVVT (Clematis vitalba)

Summary of Invasiveness

Top of page C. vitalba produces many seeds that are wind dispersed, and it is a strong colonizer of disturbed ground. It is a fast-growing vine with the ability to climb up and bring down tall trees and reduce standing forests to impenetrable low-growing infestations of the vine. It has the ability to expand its range and cover in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, and to be further introduced as an ornamental species. It is a very serious environmental weed in New Zealand undergoing eradication.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Dicotyledonae
  •                     Order: Ranunculales
  •                         Family: Ranunculaceae
  •                             Genus: Clematis
  •                                 Species: Clematis vitalba

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Top of page The name 'vitalba' is derived from the Latin words for 'white vine', referring to the mass of white flowers that cover vines in summer. The common name, 'traveller's joy', also refers to this massive floral display, whereas the common names 'old man's beard' and 'virgin's bower' refer to the creamy mass of feathery achenes that hang on the bare canes through winter. Other common names are used regionally in England (West, 1991). Common names in other languages evoke the forest and hedgerow habitat that this vine inhabits. The name 'herbe au gueux' ('beggars plant') is said to originate from the use of the acrid juice of the plant to produce ulcerous wounds as a means of exciting pity (West, 1991). There are no taxonomic synonyms for this species. Several varieties have been recorded, but these are probably phenotypic variations in response to habitat.


Top of page C. vitalba is a deciduous, woody climber that can live for 40 years (West, 1991) or more. Woody stems can grow to over 10 m in length and can reach 15-20 cm in diameter. New stems are deeply ridged, dark purple and green, with silky white hairs near the apex, and have been recorded to grow as much as 3 m per year (West, 1991). Stems grow erect between holds, rather than entwining a vertical stem. A shoot can support itself for some distance before twining 3-4 times around a new hold of approximately 1 cm in diameter (Kennedy, 1984; West, 1991). Vines can climb 25 m-tall forest trees, but have difficulty colonizing tall, emergent species with long distances between branches (Ogle et al., 2000). Mature stems have grey, stringy bark, with thickened nodes approximately 15 cm apart. Where stems grow along the ground, adventitious roots form at the nodes.

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 Type

Top of page Broadleaved
Seed propagated
Vegetatively propagated
Vine / climber


Top of page C. vitalba is native to Europe, from southern England and the Netherlands to North Africa, and from Spain to the Middle East and the Caucasus. It is naturalized in European countries bordering its contiguous native range, including Ireland, Poland, Norway and Sweden (Tutin et al., 1964) and it also grows north of its native European range, for example in northern England and Scotland. It has been introduced to, and has naturalized in, North America, Australia and New Zealand. The best means for estimating distribution in Europe appears to be mean temperature in July (Fitter, 1978).

Distribution Table

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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.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasivePlantedReferenceNotes


AfghanistanPresentNativeRechinger, 1992; USDA-ARS, 2003
ArmeniaPresentNativeMirumyan, 1991; USDA-ARS, 2003
AzerbaijanPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2003
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2003
IranPresentNativeRechinger, 1992; USDA-ARS, 2003
LebanonPresentNativeRechinger, 1992; USDA-ARS, 2003
SyriaPresentNativeMaire, 1964; Rechinger, 1992; USDA-ARS, 2003
TurkeyWidespreadNativeRechinger, 1992


AlgeriaRestricted distributionNativeMaire, 1964; USDA-ARS, 2003

North America

-British ColumbiaRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive Anon., 2003
-OntarioPresentIntroducedAnon., 2003
USARestricted distributionIntroduced1830s Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-MaineRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-OregonRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002
-WashingtonRestricted distributionIntroduced Invasive USDA-NRCS, 2002


AlbaniaPresentNative Natural Tutin et al., 1964
AustriaPresentNative Natural Tutin et al., 1964
BelgiumPresentNative Natural Tutin et al., 1964
BulgariaPresentNativeTutin et al., 1964; Petkova, 1984
CyprusPresentNative Natural USDA-ARS, 2003
Czech RepublicPresentNativeTutin et al., 1964; Polak, 1996
Czechoslovakia (former)Present Natural
FranceWidespreadNativeTutin et al., 1964; Tremolieres et al., 1999
-CorsicaPresentNativeTutin et al., 1964
GermanyWidespreadNativeTutin et al., 1964; Hemp, 1999
GreecePresent Natural
HungaryPresentNative Natural Tutin et al., 1964
IrelandPresentIntroducedTutin et al., 1964
ItalyWidespreadNativeTutin et al., 1964; Arzone, 1979; Pieroni, 1999
NetherlandsPresentNative Natural Tutin et al., 1964
NorwayPresentIntroducedTutin et al., 1964
PolandPresentIntroducedTutin et al., 1964; Czekalski, 1987
PortugalPresentNative Natural Tutin et al., 1964
RomaniaPresentNative Natural Tutin et al., 1964
Russian FederationPresent Natural
-Southern RussiaPresentNativeTutin et al., 1964; Fisun, 1966
SerbiaWidespreadNativeMihajlovic et al., 1998
SlovakiaPresentNativePolak, 1996
SpainPresentNativeTutin et al., 1964; Seijo et al., 1997
SwedenPresentIntroducedTutin et al., 1964
SwitzerlandPresentNativeTutin et al., 1964; Groppe, 1991
UKWidespreadNative Invasive Tutin et al., 1964; Clay and Dixon, 2000
UkrainePresent, few occurrencesNativeUSDA-ARS, 2003
-Krymskaya OblastPresent Natural
Yugoslavia (former)WidespreadNative Natural Mihajlovic et al., 1998


-New South WalesRestricted distributionIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003
-TasmaniaRestricted distributionIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003
-VictoriaRestricted distributionIntroducedRoyal Botanic Gardens Sydney, 2003
New ZealandWidespreadIntroduced1920s Invasive Atkinson, 1984; Timmins, 1984; West, 1991; Ogle et al., 2000; Hill et al., 2001

History of Introduction and Spread

Top of page C. vitalba has been introduced widely throughout the world as a garden ornamental, and has naturalized in Europe, North America, and Australasia. Gardeners in Philadephia and Boston, USA imported several Clematis species including C. vitalba between 1830 and 1840 (ACS, 2003). It was first recorded in New Zealand in the 1920s and had become naturalized by 1935 (West, 1991), but it was not until the 1960s that this plant was recognized as a threat.

Risk of Introduction

Top of page C. vitalba seeds could be imported between continents as contaminants on trade items. However, this plant is not commonly associated with agricultural or industrial goods. Such events are therefore likely to be rare, and the risk low. However, C. vitalba often grows on roadsides, and the risk of seeds being transported on road vehicles from known infestations to new sites within continents is high. In the past, ornamental Clematis species were often grafted onto C. vitalba rootstocks. It is likely that some incursions of C. vitalba have resulted from reversion of these rootstocks. The highest risk of introduction remains via intentional introduction of the plant as an ornamental, and plants and seed continue to be sold by nurseries, mail order catalogues and websites.


Top of page C. vitalba is a versatile plant capable of growing in a variety of habitats, on a variety of substrates from trees and shrubs in forest margins to hedgerows, fencelines, dunes, riverbanks, and grassland. It is commonly associated with degraded and disturbed areas (Beekman, 1980), and so can be invasive within its native range. In both its native and exotic range, C. vitalba typically occupies forest margins and gaps and can invade open spaces. The distribution of C. vitalba in England is mainly on chalk and limestone, but elsewhere in Europe it occurs on a wide range of moderately fertile, well-drained soils. In New Zealand it is often associated with riverbeds, and fertile alluvial soils (Atkinson, 1984; West, 1991). It does not appear to be unusually sensitive to soil acidity or nutrient deficiency although heavy soils may restrict growth and spread (Atkinson, 1984). Its native range is in the latitudinal range 36-52°N, and it does not thrive north of 36°S. It is a lowland species in New Zealand, suggesting that it is limited by cooler temperatures at high elevation (Atkinson, 1984). In North America it occurs near the coast or on the Great Lakes at latitudes similar to those in Europe (Anon., 2003). These distributions suggest that C. vitalba is a warm temperate species although infestations can occur in microhabitats within regions that otherwise appear inhospitable (Atkinson, 1984). C. vitalba also invades riparian vegetation, waste land, long grass, and even urban areas (Atkinson, 1984; Buxton, 1985; West, 1991). C. vitalba seedlings are readily grazed, and as such C. vitalba is often confined to ungrazed areas (West, 1992).

Habitat List

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Terrestrial – ManagedManaged forests, plantations and orchards Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Natural grasslands Present, no further details
Riverbanks Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Wetlands Present, no further details
Coastal areas Present, no further details

Hosts/Species Affected

Top of page C. vitalba is a minor weed of vineyards, and damages small trees and hedgerows in its native and introduced ranges in Europe (Britt, 1994; Clay and Dixon, 2000) as well as being a weed of pine (Pinus spp.) plantations (Mitchell, 1975).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
Pinus (pines)PinaceaeOther
Vitis vinifera (grapevine)VitaceaeMain

Growth Stages

Top of page Vegetative growing stage

Biology and Ecology

Top of page Genetics

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).

Reproductive Biology

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.

Environmental Requirements

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 Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
0 0 0 0

Air Temperature

Top of page
Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 16 19


Top of page
ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall8001600mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

Top of page Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • alkaline
  • neutral

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Monophadnus spinolae Herbivore Leaves
Phoma clematadina Pathogen Leaves
Phytomyza vitalbae Herbivore Leaves

Notes on Natural Enemies

Top of page In 1989-90, a field survey identified 81 phytophagous species that attacked C. vitalba in central Europe, including 31 insects, four mites and four nematode species that were regarded as monophagous or oligophagous (Groppe, 1991; Wittenberg and Groppe, 1991, 1992; Wittenberg and Schroeder, 1993; Wittenberg, 1994). A field survey for plant pathogens was carried out in Europe and North America in 1990. Pathogenic fungi were isolated from 57 collections from nine countries (Spiers, 1991; Gourlay et al., 2000).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

Top of page Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

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.

Accidental Introduction

This weed appears to invade along roadsides by seed, possibly aided by the turbulence created by motor vehicles.

Intentional Introduction

C. vitalba is an attractive climber, and was originally introduced to New Zealand, Australia and the USA as an ornamental.

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Soil, sand and gravelWater Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility 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
Seedlings/Micropropagated plants

Impact Summary

Top of page
Animal/plant collections None
Animal/plant products None
Biodiversity (generally) Negative
Crop production None
Environment (generally) Negative
Fisheries / aquaculture None
Forestry production Negative
Human health None
Livestock production None
Native fauna Negative
Native flora Negative
Rare/protected species Negative
Tourism None
Trade/international relations None
Transport/travel None


Top of page C. vitalba is generally regarded as a minor weed in European vineyards. However, Angelini et al. (2003) identified a phytoplasma in C. vitalba that is associated with a serious grape disease and it is also a host for Alfalfa mosaic virus (Polak, 1986). They highlighted the risk of disease transmission posed by wild plants such as C. vitalba growing in or near vineyards. C. vitalba is largely an environmental weed in New Zealand, and causes little direct economic damage. However, the total cost expended by the New Zealand Department of Conservation to manage the impact of C. vitalba in native habitats from 1989 to 1994 was approximately US$500,000 (Gourlay et al., 2000; Hill et al., 2001), and total expenditure by all agencies over this period exceeded US$2 million (Hill et al., 2001). C. vitalba is also poisonous to grazing animals but the direct costs of this to the livestock industry has not been quantified (West, 1991).

Environmental Impact

Top of page C. vitalba is not a significant environmental weed in Europe, North America, or Australia. Only in New Zealand has it caused serious environmental damage. C. vitalba infestation can reduce the forest structure, and change the recruitment patterns in forests (Ogle et al., 2000). It grows so strongly in forest margins and light gaps that vines can form a dense, light-absorbing canopy that suppresses all vegetation beneath it and can be so vigorous that the weight of foliage and stems breaks the supporting trees. C. vitalba can reduce small, healthy forest remnants to low, long-lived thickets of vines scrambling over the ground on forest debris (Hill et al., 2001).

Impact: Biodiversity

Top of page Apart from changing forest structure, C. vitalba contributes to loss of biodiversity in New Zealand through local extinction of species or forms that are threatened, have restricted or disjunct distributions, or are biogeographically significant. It is common in National Parks and Reserves and infestations are a serious threat to the survival of many native forest remnants (Timmins, 1984; Ogle et al., 2000). Damage from C. vitalba also enhances invasion of native habitats by other invasive plants. Ogle et al. (2000) also point out that measures taken to control C. vitalba can also be damaging to biodiversity. C. vitalba does not hybridize with native Clematis species.

Social Impact

Top of page Contact with C. vitalba foliage can cause irritant dermatitis in humans. Moore (1971) found the stems and leaves of C. vitalba in the rumen of an 18-month-old cow that died with symptoms consistent with poisoning. However, the toxicity of C. vitalba appears to vary seasonally and it can be controlled by judicious grazing (West, 1991). C. vitalba grows as a dense vertical curtain in forest margins or along the ground as a deep mass of wiry stems restricting access to affected areas by animals and humans. C. vitalba is clearly perceived as a serious social threat by the New Zealand public. Greer and Sheppard (1990) used a contingent valuation method to assess the value that New Zealanders placed on obtaining a solution to this problem. The public was prepared to pay US$22-56 million for research that provided a 'relatively small' likelihood of controlling the weed biologically.

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • 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
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
  • Negatively impacts human health
  • Negatively impacts animal health
  • Negatively impacts tourism
  • Reduced amenity values
  • Reduced native biodiversity
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - monopolizing resources
  • Pest and disease transmission
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
  • Difficult/costly to control


Top of page C. vitalba shoots are harvested and eaten in Italy (Pieroni, 1999) and other parts of Europe. Shoots must be boiled to inactivate the toxin protoanemonine (Pieroni, 1999). C. vitalba is also used as a ritual botanical to ward off evil spirits and 'turn away the evil eye' in Tuscany (Pieroni and Giusti, 2002). Leaf decoctions are used in homeopathic medicines for the treatment of urinary tract problems, and to treat inattention and shock. Flower essences are used in treatment of day-dreaming and inattention. There appear to be no recent references to the use of C. vitalba as a rootstock, but this appears to have been common practice in the past. The vigorous and sprawling habit of C. vitalba has been used to stabilize loose, stony slopes (Fisun, 1966). C. vitalba wood has wide vessels and Colville et al. (1979) suggested that carbonized wood of C. vitalba could be used as a matrix for bone regeneration in the treatment of fractures. It is principally used as an ornamental species.

Uses List

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  • Graft stock


  • Ornamental


  • Poisonous to mammals

Medicinal, pharmaceutical

  • Traditional/folklore

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

Top of page Keys successfully distinguish C. vitalba from sympatric Clematis species in Europe by flower colour and structure, and by climbing habit. C. vitalba achenes are barely compressed whereas achenes of C. flammula are strongly compressed (Tutin et al., 1964). C. vitalba can be distinguished from C. tangutica because it has white rather than deeply yellow flowers, and because leaves are coarsely rather than finely toothed (Atkinson, 1984).

Prevention and Control

Top of page 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).

Mechanical Control

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).

Chemical Control

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.

Biological Control

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).

Integrated Control

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.


Top of page

ACS (American Clematis Society), 2003. The ACS timeline of clematis history. American Clematis Society.

Angelini E; Squizzato F; Luccheta G; Borgo M, 2003. Identificazione di un fitoplasm associate a flavescenza dorata su Clematide (Clematis vitalba).

Anon., 2003. Clematis alba, old man's beard. The Canadian Biodiversity Web Site. Canadian Heritage.

Arzone A, 1979. An aphid of topical interest on peach: Myzus varians Davidson. Informatore Fitopatologico, 29(8):3-6

Atkinson IAE, 1984. Distribution and potential range of old man's beard, Clematis vitalba, in New Zealand. Information Series, Department of Lands and Survey, Wellington, New Zealand, 11:6-25.

Baars R; Kelly D, 1996. Survival and growth responses of native and introduced vines in New Zealand to light availability. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 34(3):389-400; 41 ref.

Beekman F, 1980. The dynamics of an alluvial forest on the Rhine and the role of climbers. In: Cramer J, ed. Colloques phytosociologiques: forets alluviales europeennes, Strasbourg.

Britt CP, 1994. Clematis vitalba (old man's beard) as a competitive "weed" in hedgerows and the effects of hedge cutting regimes on its development. Field margins: integrating agriculture and conservation. Proceedings of a symposium held at Coventry, UK, 18-20 April 1994 [edited by Boatman, N.] Farnham, UK; British Crop Protection Council (BCPC), 241-246

Bungard RA; Morton JD; McNeil DL; Daly GT, 1998. Effects of irradiance and nitrogen on Clematis vitalba establishment in a New Zealand lowland podocarp forest remnant. New Zealand Journal of Botany, 36(4):661-670; 26 ref.

Buxton JM, 1985. The potential for the biological control of Clematis vitalba L. MSc Thesis, Imperial College, Silwood Park, Egham: Department of Pure and Applied Science.

Clapham AR; Tutin TG; Moore DM, 1987. Flora of the British Isles. Third edition. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Clay DV; Dixon FL, 2000. Further investigations on the control of Clematis vitalba (Old Man's Beard). Aspects of Applied Biology, 58:71-76.

Colville J; Baas P; Hooikka V; Vainio K, 1979. Wood anatomy and the use of carbonised wood as a matrix for bone regeneration in animals. IAWA Bulletin, 1:3-6.

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