Skip to main content

Old man's beard identification and control: Clematis vitalba

Old man's beard identification and control

Clematis vitalba

Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) - click for larger image

Also called traveler's joy, this import from Europe and south western Asia is an aggressively spreading woody vine, found along streams, fencelines, forest edges and hillsides. Old man's beard vines can grow up to 100 feet long and can completely blanket trees and other plants. Creamy white flowers in summer are followed by feathery seed heads in late summer and early fall, giving this vine its common name "old man's beard. These fluffy seed heads are persistent and quite conspicuous in the winter.

Legal status in King County, Washington

Old man's beard is a Class C noxious weed on the Washington State Noxious Weed List. Control of old man's beard in King County is recommended but not required. Old man's beard is not on the prohibited plants list administered by the Washington State Department of Agriculture, but some nurseries have volunteered to stop selling it due to its danger to natural resources. For more information on Noxious weed regulations and definitions, see Noxious weed lists and laws.

The King County Noxious Weed Control Board encourages property owners to remove old man's beard where possible and to avoid introducing it to new landscapes. Ornamental plantings can be contained by removing flower stalks before they form seeds.

Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) seedheads
Impact and spread

Similar to other invasive vines, old man's beard prevents trees and bushes from getting sunlight and add considerable weight to trees, eventually weakening and even killing the supporting trees and bushes. After the tree dies, old man's beard continues to grow, creating dense thickets of growth. Young plants can grow 6 feet a year and once established, vines can completely cover existing vegetation. The airborne seeds allow this vine to spread quickly to new locations. Also, damaged or cut stems can re-sprout so plants can spread vegetatively as well.


Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) on tree snag - click for larger image

Control of old man's beard can be achieved through a variety of methods and the best success is achieved by a combination of manual, mechanical and chemical methods. Climbing vines can be cut at waist height, allowing the upper vines to die back. Lower vines and growth along the ground can be dug up anytime or treated with an herbicide when the plant is actively growing. Applying herbicide to freshly cut vines is also effective. Make sure to carefully follow the label directions of the product being applied, wear the recommended personal protection equipment, and avoid drift and off-target application to surrounding vegetation.

Additional information on old man's beard

Old man's beard pictures

Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) Flowering Stem
Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) vines on tree
Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) blanketing trees
Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) on tree

Related information

Related agencies

Program offices are located at 201 S. Jackson St., Suite 600, Seattle, WA 98104. To contact staff, see the Noxious Weed Control Program Directory, send an email, or call 206-477-WEED (206-477-9333).