Travellers Joy. Clematis vitalba. Image below shows the fruiting head with its plumes.

Image courtesy of Michael Gasperi.  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.Clematis-vitalba-Waldrebe(Samenstand).jpg


This wild clematis is a shrub of the buttercup family Ranunculaceae. In the UK it occurs quite commonly south of a line from the River Mersey and the river Humber. It occurs in southern, eastern and northern Wales. However, it is a widely planted species that has become naturalized elsewhere. It occurs in many other countries in Europe and in some countries,such as New Zealand  it is classed as an invasive species.

Flowers of Clematis vitalba.

Image courtesy of Hechtonichus  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.


The thick woody climbing stems of this species adorn hedgerows and woodlands, hanging from the tree tops like some tropical jungle plant. When in flower they are instantly recognized because of their whitish-green colouring and the faint scent of vanilla The flowers are small and hairy and do not produce true petals. The stamens are protruding .The flowers then produce long seed plumes {Opening image} which give the plant its alternative name of 'Old Man's beard'.

The thick woody stems are grooved and can easily be felt when you run your hand along the stem. The leaves are composed of three to five leaflets and the leaf stalks twist around the branches of other plants. 

The foliage of Clematis vitalba.

Image courtesy of Hechtonius  CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Uses of Clematis vitalba

In the past, in Switerland,  the stems were utilized to make a rope and in Slovenia they were used to weave baskets to carry onions and for binding crops. In the past it was used medicinally to treat stress and nervous conditions. It is also used in Homeopathy to treat skin rashes and swollen glands and rhuematism.

The individual plumes with seed. Museum specimen.

Courtesy of Roger Culos.  CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

Good or bad for hedgerows and woods.

Although good for wildlife such as birds and small mammals the plant is known to smother hedgerows with its swamping growth. Indeed some believe that you cannot have a truly wild hedgerow and clematis alba it must be one or the other, because the hedgerow becomes weak when this plant has become really established over a number of years.

Other conservationist believe that without this species many species of insects would struggle to survive this being an important food plant for them or their larvae. It is a plant of contention as regards conservationists and I suspect it will be for some years to come. 

Components of Clematis vitalba

Image courtesy of Wikicommons. Public domain.

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