Wild Clematis is also known as:
- Traveler’s joy
- Old man’s beard
- Evergreen clematis
- Virgin’s bower
General: Wild Clematis is a deciduous, climbing vine that grows from woody stems.
Flowers: Forms clusters of creamy white to green flowers. The flowers have petal-like sepals, but no actual sepals, and both male and female parts are found on the same flower.
Leaves: Are opposite and pinnately compound. The leaves are composed of groups of 5 heart-shaped leaflets that are coarsely toothed and grow on long petioles. Leaf shape is influenced by the amount of sunlight available.
Stems: Are dark purple to green, with silky white hairs near the apex. Stems tightly twist around objects and can grow as much as 3 m in a year. The woody stems can grow to over 10 m long, with a diameter of 15 – 20 cm.
Roots: Very long taproot; adventitious roots can form at the nodes where the stems grow along the ground.
Fruits: Clusters of flowers ripen into leathery or fluffy seed heads, which persist over winter and are responsible for the plant’s alternate name.
Several native clematis species can look similar to Wild Clematis. However, native clematis all produce darker flowers (either blue, reddish or brownish-purple tones).
Habitat and Origin
Wild Clematis is native to Europe, Africa and southwest Asia. It has been introduced widely throughout the world as a garden ornamental.
Wild Clematis prefers partial sun, where its roots can remain shaded. It is found in the margins and openings of forested lands, as well as in riparian areas that are established with willows, in waste areas, and in coastal and lowland areas. Wild Clematis is commonly associated with degraded and disturbed areas.
Propagation & Vectors of Spread
Wild Clematis reproduces by seed. One plant can produce up to 100,000 seeds in a season, and it can live up to 40 years. Moreover, seeds can remain in the soil for up to 5 years, which leads to the rapid formation of a seedbank.
It can also spread vegetatively, as plant fragments can root at the nodes.
Wild Clematis seeds are commonly spread by the wind; long-distance dispersal can also occur via contaminated soil, sand and gravel, as well as garden waste. Lastly, air turbulences caused by vehicles can contribute to displacing the very light seeds.
The horticulture trade is also responsible for the spread of Wild Clematis, as it is sold and planted ornamentally.
Ecological, Economic, & Health Impacts
- Can cause skin irritation in humans.
- Chokes out native forests by blocking sunlight, leading to biodiversity loss.
- Weighs down trees until they collapse or the branches break.
- Rapidly grows along and over water passages, impacting water flow.
- Reduces forest structures; changes recruitment patterns in forests.
- Poisonous to grazing animals.
- Host of serious grape diseases and of Alfalfa mosaic virus, so could negatively impact vineyards.
What Can I Do?
Wild Clematis is currently found at very few sites in the Sea to Sky Region, so PREVENTION of further spread is key:
Learn to identify Wild Clematis: use the images presented in this profile page to learn how to identify Wild Clematis
What to do if you spot it: You can report any Wild Clematis sighting by clicking here.
- Regularly monitor properties for weed infestations.
- Check wildflower mixes to ensure that they do not contain Wild Clematis.
- Ensure all flowering heads or buds are bagged or covered to prevent spread during transport to designated disposal sites.
- Do not unload, park or store equipment or vehicles in infested areas; remove plant material from any equipment, vehicles or clothing used in such areas and wash equipment and vehicles at designated cleaning sites before leaving infested areas.
- Do not plant Wild Clematis in a garden, no matter how well-contained its enclosure may seem.
- Do not compost any flowering heads or buds. Instead, dispose of Wild Clematis in the general/household waste stream at the landfill as the seeds will be able to persist the composting process.
- Do not move soil, gravel, or fill that has been contaminated with Wild Clematis.
- Do not plant Wild Clematis; check the scientific (Latin) name of the plants/seeds you intend on purchasing or planting, and avoid all cultivars of Clematis vitalba.
- Hand-pull small infestations; dig up and remove vines growing along the ground.
- Mowing or lopping is possible, however it should be followed by digging out the roots or applying herbicide on the cut stems or re-growth, otherwise it will re-sprout.
- Although plants can be dug up year-round, it is ideal to do so during the winter, when most plants are dormant, to minimize disturbance to surrounding vegetation.
- Wild Clematis doesn’t do well in shade, so plant native groundcovers and conifers to revegetate the area.
- Foliar application or cut stump treatment of glyphosate, metsulfuron, imazapyr and clopyralid have proven effective for Wild Clematis.
- Sprayed plants should not be removed or cut back until after the herbicide has had a chance to work and the plant has died.
- We recommend that any herbicide application is carried out by a person holding a valid BC Pesticide Applicator Certificate. Before selecting and applying herbicides, you must review and follow herbicide labels and application rates; municipal, regional, provincial and federal laws and regulations; species-specific treatment recommendations, and site-specific goals and objectives.
There is no biocontrol available for this plant.
- Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia, Clematis vitalba, http://linnet.geog.ubc.ca/Atlas/Atlas.aspx?sciname=Clematis%20vitalba
- Fraser Valley Invasive Species Society, Wild Clematis, https://fviss.ca/invasive-plant/wild-clematis
- Global Invasive Species Database, Clematis vitalba, http://www.iucngisd.org/gisd/speciesname/Clematis+vitalba
- Invasive Species Compendium, Clematis vitalba, https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/14280
- King County, Old Man’s Beard Identification and Control, https://www.kingcounty.gov/services/environment/animals-and-plants/noxious-weeds/weed-identification/old-mans-beard.aspx
- King County Noxious Weed Control Program, Best Management Practices for Old Man’s Beard, https://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/water-and-land/weeds/BMPs/Old-mans-beard-Clematis-vitalba-control.pdf
- King County Noxious Weed Control Program Weed Alert, Old Man’s Beard, https://your.kingcounty.gov/dnrp/library/water-and-land/weeds/Brochures/Old-Man’s-Beard-Clematis-vitalba-Weed-Alert.pdf