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Traveller's Joy

Clematis vitalba

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ranunculaceae (Buttercup)
Deciduous shrub
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 metres long
Grassland, hedgerows, riverbanks, roadsides, sand dunes, scrub, seaside, walls, wasteland, woodland.

White, 4 petals
Greyish-white plumes which give the plant it's alternative common name of 'Old Man's Beard'.
An achene. The fruits have long, woolly white appendages attached. These persist throughout the winter.
Our only climber with opposite, pinnate leaves. Sometimes the leaflets are toothed. Individual leaflets can reach as much as 10cm in length. Deciduous.
Slightly pungent.
Other Names:
Beggar's Plant, Bind-with, Biting Clematis, Boy's Bacca, Devil's Twine, Father Christmas, Hedge Vine, Lady's Bower, Love, Maiden's Hair, Maiden's Honesty, Old Man, Old Man's Beard, Smoke Weed, Smoke Wood, Smoking Cane, Virgin's Bower, White Vine, Wild Clematis.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Clematis vitalba, also known as old man's beard, is a perennial climbing plant in the Ranunculaceae family. It is native to Europe, Asia and North Africa and is often found climbing over hedges, trees and other vegetation. It is a vigorous and fast-growing vine that can reach up to 20 meters in length. The plant has green leaves that are divided into three leaflets, and produces small, white, four-petaled flowers in late spring and summer, followed by fluffy, white seed heads. The plant prefers moist, well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade, but it can also tolerate shade. It can be propagated by seed, semi-hardwood cuttings, or layering. It's hardy to USDA Zone 4. It is often used for ornamental purposes and as a cover for walls, fences, and other structures, but it can be invasive if not controlled.


Traveller's Joy, also known as Old Man's Beard, is a climbing plant belonging to the Clematis genus, specifically the species Clematis vitalba. This plant is well known for its delicate white flowers, which bloom from late summer to early autumn and its long, feathery seed heads that persist long into winter. It is an easy-to-grow plant that is a great addition to any garden, providing an attractive and unique feature to any wall, fence, or trellis.

Clematis vitalba is native to Europe and Asia and is widely distributed throughout the temperate regions of the world. The plant can grow to a height of up to 20 feet, and its long, twining stems are covered with small, sharp hooks that make it easy to climb. The leaves of the plant are bright green, compound, and have a distinctive shape that resembles a heart.

The flowers of Traveller's Joy are one of the standout features of this plant. They are large and white, with a delicate and airy appearance. The flowers bloom in clusters, and each bloom can reach up to 4 inches in diameter. The petals are arranged in a way that creates a bell-like shape, and the stamens in the center of the flower provide a beautiful contrast in color.

After the flowers have bloomed, Traveller's Joy produces large seed heads that persist long into winter. These seed heads are light and feathery, and they add a unique touch to any garden. They also provide a food source for birds during the winter months, which can help to attract a wide variety of bird species to your garden.

Growing Traveller's Joy is relatively easy, and it can be done in a variety of ways. The plant prefers well-drained soil and full sun, but it can also tolerate partial shade. It can be grown in a container, or it can be planted in the ground and trained to climb a wall, fence, or trellis. Pruning should be done in the spring, and the plant should be trained to grow in the direction you want it to go.

Traveller's Joy, also known as Old Man's Beard, is a beautiful and unique plant that is well worth adding to your garden. Its delicate white flowers and feathery seed heads provide an attractive and unique feature to any garden, and it is an easy-to-grow plant that is well suited to a variety of conditions.

In addition to its beauty and ease of growth, Traveller's Joy also has a long history of cultural and medicinal use. In folklore, the plant was believed to have the power to ward off evil spirits and to protect travelers on their journeys. The dried stems of the plant were often used to create charms and amulets, and the seeds were used to make necklaces.

In traditional medicine, Traveller's Joy was used to treat a variety of ailments, including wounds, skin irritations, and respiratory issues. The leaves were applied to wounds to speed up the healing process, and the stems were used to make a tea that was believed to help with coughing and bronchial problems.

However, it is important to note that the plant can also be toxic if ingested in large quantities. The seeds and leaves of Traveller's Joy contain chemicals that can cause digestive and respiratory problems, so it is best to avoid consuming the plant.

Another interesting aspect of Traveller's Joy is its ability to act as a pioneer plant in the process of ecosystem succession. This means that it is often one of the first plants to establish itself in an area that has been disturbed, such as a cleared forest. As the plant grows and matures, it provides a structure for other plants to grow on and eventually creates a diverse and thriving ecosystem.

Traveller's Joy is not only a beautiful and easy-to-grow plant, but it also has a rich history and cultural significance, as well as the ability to play an important role in ecosystem succession. Whether you are looking to add a unique and attractive feature to your garden, or you are interested in learning more about the cultural and ecological significance of this plant, Traveller's Joy is definitely worth considering.

Traveller's Joy is also known for its versatility in landscaping and garden design. It can be used as a focal point in a garden, as a backdrop for other plants, or as a screen to hide an unsightly view. Its delicate flowers and feathery seed heads add texture and interest to any garden, and the plant can be trained to grow in a variety of shapes and forms.

For example, Traveller's Joy can be trained to grow up a trellis, creating a beautiful vertical garden. It can also be grown as a ground cover, spreading out over the ground and creating a lush and attractive carpet. When grown on a wall or fence, Traveller's Joy provides a natural and organic look that is sure to impress.

Another great aspect of Traveller's Joy is that it is relatively low maintenance. Once established, the plant is hardy and resilient, and it requires very little care. In the spring, it is recommended to prune the plant back to control its growth and to encourage new growth, but other than that, the plant can be left to grow on its own.

Traveller's Joy is also a great choice for wildlife gardening. The flowers of the plant attract a wide variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, and the seed heads provide a food source for birds during the winter months. By planting Traveller's Joy in your garden, you can help to create a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, making your garden a more biodiverse and interesting place.

Traveller's Joy is a versatile and attractive plant that is well worth adding to your garden. With its delicate flowers, feathery seed heads, and ease of growth, it is a great choice for any gardener, and its cultural and ecological significance make it an even more valuable addition to your garden.

One of the most remarkable features of Traveller's Joy is its adaptability. It is native to Europe and Asia, but it has been introduced to many other parts of the world and it grows well in a wide range of climatic conditions. This makes it an ideal plant for gardeners in many different parts of the world.

Traveller's Joy is also a very hardy plant and it can tolerate a wide range of soils and growing conditions. It will grow in full sun or partial shade, and it can tolerate drought conditions once established. This makes it an excellent choice for gardeners who live in areas that experience hot and dry summers, as the plant will continue to grow and bloom even in these conditions.

One important factor to keep in mind when planting Traveller's Joy is to give it enough room to grow. This plant can grow to be quite large, and it needs plenty of space to spread out and reach its full potential. If you are planting Traveller's Joy in a garden with limited space, it is important to prune the plant regularly to control its growth and keep it in bounds.

In terms of maintenance, Traveller's Joy is a relatively low-maintenance plant. As mentioned earlier, it is recommended to prune the plant back in the spring to encourage new growth, but other than that, the plant can be left to grow on its own. It is also a good idea to mulch around the base of the plant to retain moisture and to keep the roots cool in hot weather.

In conclusion, Traveller's Joy is an excellent choice for gardeners who want a beautiful and low-maintenance plant that is adaptable and hardy. With its delicate flowers, feathery seed heads, and cultural and ecological significance, it is a plant that is sure to bring joy to your garden for many years to come. Whether you are planting it in a large garden or in a small patio container, Traveller's Joy is a plant that will bring beauty and interest to your outdoor space.


Traveller's Joy filmed at Ainsdale in Lancashire on the 15th July 2023.


Music credits
Act One - Tenebrous Brothers Carnival by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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