categoryZClimbers Climbers List 
categoryZDeciduous Deciduous List 

TRAVELLER'S JOY

OLD MAN'S BEARD

Clematis vitalba

Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

Pappus: pappusZpossible (white, plumed feathers)
pappus8sep pappus8sept pappus8oct pappus8nov

category
category8Climbers
 
category
category8Deciduous
 
status
statusZnative
 
flower
flower8white flower8cream
 
inner
inner8cream
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ4
 
stem
stem8oval
 
stem
stem8fluted
 
smell
smell8faintly smell8slight
faintly
toxicity
toxicityZmedium
 

29th Nov 2007, Crosby dunes, Sefton Coast, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Like a layer of snow partially covering a shrub through which Traveller's-Joy interpenetrates the white filamentous seed heads await their chance to dry and blow away in the wind to start a new colony elsewhere.


28th May 2012, Little Orme, North Wales Coast. Photo: © RWD
A new plant, probably self-sown by a wind-borne seed (achene). They like growing in limy soils.


16th June 2009, Little Orme, North Wales Coast. Photo: © RWD
In pole position, way above head out an exuberant branch searches for a new perch.


16th Aug 2005, Barnsley Canal, Cold Heindle. Photo: © RWD
The younger leaves near the flowering ends tend not to have teeth (an older leaf top centre does). The flowers are in large terminal panicles, which un-like those of Virgin's Bower which are upright, are mostly horizontal.


16th Aug 2005, Barnsley Canal, Cold Heindle. Photo: © RWD
The flowers have only four greeny white petal-like sepals which is unusual for a member of the Buttercup Family which normally have five. The sepals re-curve backwards far more than they do on Virgin's-Bower which are almost straight.


16th Aug 2005, Barnsley Canal, Cold Heindle. Photo: © RWD
A profusion of stamens, greeny-yellow at first, splay out and turn white. Sepals hairy on both sides (on Virgin's-Bower they are hairy only on the lower surface).


16th Aug 2005, Barnsley Canal, Cold Heindle. Photo: © RWD
At first like a shaving brush in the centre the stigmas on the outside spread out first before turn feathery later.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Flowers in a panicle. The end terminating bud opening first, side-branches later. Stems and sepals are covered in felty short white hairs.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The sepals beginning to open.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Fully opened sepals with greenish-white stripes looking a little like those of White Bryony, but there are only 4 rather than 5. Hairy on both sides. Stigmas surrounded by bunched-up white-tipped stamens, all greenish-white at first.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The sepals curl backwards, the stamens start to spread out. Greenish-yellow styles are slightly longer than the surrounding stamens. The stamens have a white V-shaped anther at the end.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The anthers spread further outwards, the outermost dropping off, as have the four sepals. Eventually only the central greenish-yellow styles will be left, and they will eventually transform themselves into white feathery plumes, each attached to a seed.


29th Nov 2007, Crosby dunes, Sefton Coast, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The white hairy masses resemble the straggly dangling beards of old men, hence the colloquial name 'Old Man's Beard'.


29th Nov 2007, Crosby dunes, Sefton Coast, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The white hairs are transformed styles, with all the reddish-brown seeds in the centre. There are fewer feathery hairs on Traveller's-Joy than on Virgin's-Bower. When dry the feathery plumes spread out at an angle of 120° ready for the wind to carry them away with their attached seed. There are approximately 22 seeds per fruiting head.


28th May 2012, Little Orme, North Wales Coast. Photo: © RWD
Branches off the main stem are singly-pinnate, rather than doubly-pinate as for Virgin's-Bower.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Leaves, if lobed or toothed, are asymmetrically shaped, but smaller newer leaves are un-lobed. No two toothed/lobed leaves the same shape.


28th May 2012, Little Orme, North Wales Coast. Photo: © RWD
Here the leaves are more definitively but coarsely toothed. Leaves have a high gloss on the upper surface. two leaves toothed the same.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The leaf stems emerge at right-angles to the main stem, but usually curve and bend forward or are contorted into other shapes, in a bid to help it clamber over other plants. Leaves are lime green / mid-green.


14th July 2014, Dune Slacks, Ainsdale, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
The stems are brownish-purple and deeply ribbed. Leaves here have few if any lobes. The leaves differ from those of Virgin's-Bower in that they are rounded or ace-of-spades shaped as they abruptly join the stem, whereas those of Virgins Bower join the stem more gradually.


28th May 2012, Little Orme, North Wales Coast. Photo: © RWD
Stems dark purple, oval shaped, and with two ribs in places. Branches off the main stem always at right-angles, a notable and unusual feature of Traveller's-Joys. They are also more strongly ribbed than the stems of Virgin's-Bower.


29th Nov 2007, Crosby dunes, Sefton Coast, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
It is deciduous, in late autumn when in fruit and most of the leaves have gone brown or dropped off, these were the few remaining.


Easily mis-identified as : Virgin's-Bower (Clematis flammula) which has white (rather than greeny-white) petals, un-toothed leaves, and although the branches are all set opposite each other and emerging at 90° angle, in Virgin's-Bower they keep more or less straight (whereas in Travellor's-joy they bend forwards and twist). Also, the branches are 2-pinnate (rather than 1-pinnate on Traveller's-joy), and furthermore, although the flowers are in similar panicles, in Virgin's-Bower the panicles are set upright (rather than more or less horizontal). Virgin's-Bower also has thinner sepals in relation to their length (which are slightly longer than those of Traveller's-joy). The stems of Virgin's-Bower are more weakly ribbed than those of Traveller's-joy which have strong ribbing. The sepals of Virgin's-Bower are also straighter than those of Traveller's-joy which curl under the flower much more.

Slight resemblance to : Another climber, White Bryony (Bryonia dioica) which also has slightly-furry greeny-white petals, but which number five rather than four. The leaves of White Bryony are totally different, having large rounded lobes, and it has tendrils which assist it to climb, which Traveller's-Joy lacks.

Traveller's-Joy is a woody climbing plant which not only spreads vertically and laterally up to 30 metres, but also by means of its plentiful mobile seeds attached to a feathery filament which travel on the wind. It is therefore invasive in most places, growing vigorously and forming a canopy over other plants, shrubs and trees, smothering them. It lacks tendrils, but the branches have the ability to contort themselves to gain purchase over the branches of both itself and other plants. The plant is 1-pinnate, with diametrically opposite branches set at right angles, a most distinctive arrangement. It is the only Clemetis that is native to the UK. In other countries it is an invasive fast-growing weed that is capable of climbing to the top of trees and bringing them down.

The flowers have a faint but sweet smell, mostly noticeable when flowers are open en-masse. They, unusually for a member of the Buttercup Family (Ranunculaceae), have four greeny-white petals (actually sepals) which curl over under the flower and are hairy. The styles eventually split into fine feathery filaments which are each attached to a rather large seed in the centre, one of maybe dozen. The feathery filaments dangle looking like an Old Man's Beard, hence the colloquial name. The main stems are oval with two prominent ribs in places. The stems become woody with age and were once used to make rope in Switzerland, binding crops or weaving baskets to contain onions.

It is poisonous, containing Ranunculin which is converted enzymatically if ingested to the poisonous Protoanemonin. The leaves are said to be edible if the poisons are boiled out for a few minutes.


  Clematis vitalba  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ranunculaceae  

Distribution
 family8Buttercup family8Ranunculaceae

 BSBI maps
genus8Clematis
Clematis
(Traveller's-Joys)

TRAVELLER'S-JOY

OLD MAN'S BEARD

Clematis vitalba

Buttercup Family [Ranunculaceae]