Nelson Nature fortnightly nature fix.
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Public Enemy Number One - Old Man's Beard
If you have an interest in preserving the health of our forests, or have had experience of trying to regenerate or restore a native planting, then you will know all about Old Man’s Beard (Clematis vitalba)!
First introduced to New Zealand in the 1920’s and sold for as little as 1s 6d per plant, Old Man's Beard (ironically known with affection elsewhere in the world as “Travellers Joy”) became a serious environmental pest within 50 years.
Old Man’s Beard is a remarkably well adapted invader of our native habitats, and has the capacity to smother whole forest canopies as it clambers its way up to the light. A single vine can grow more than four metres a year, and cover an area of up to 180 square metres.
Around this time of year its spidery flower heads are easy to spot in our hedgerows, reserves, and back gardens. These flowers will soon produce thousands of seeds which disperse widely on the wind and remain viable for up to ten years.
The cost and practicalities of controlling such a vigorous invader makes it impossible for Council to entirely eliminate it, but if landowners and community groups work together it is possible to control its spread on both private and public lands.
So how do you control Old Man’s Beard? Large mature vines should be cut at ground level at any time of the year and the stumps painted immediately after cutting with herbicide. Stems should be left in the air to die so they cannot re-sprout on the ground. During spring-autumn, weed spraying can be effective on foliage and emerging seedlings.
If you prefer not to use herbicide to treat Old Man’s Beard, cut the vine curtains with hedge trimmers or loppers then grub out smaller roots. If the vine is large, you can grub around the roots below the crown, and cut the roots just below the crown with secateurs or loppers. If vines are running along the ground, they will take root in a lot of places and each will need to be removed separately to prevent re-sprouting.
For more information on Old Man's Beard and its control visit the weedbusters website