Old man's beard

Old man's beard is a fast growing climbing vine with woody stems which forms a tangled mass that smothers and eventually kills the trees and shrubs it scrambles over.

Old man's beard information brochure (2 MB)

Old Mans BeardOn this page

Why is old man's beard a pest plant?
How do I identify old man's beard?
Suggested control options
Follow up management

Why is old man's beard a pest plant?

Old man's beard was brought to New Zealand as a garden plant used to cover trellis or latticework. The vine quickly escaped from gardens and has spread rapidly in the last 25 years. Large infestations pose a serious threat to New Zealand's native bush.

Old man's beard kills supporting plants and prevents regeneration by blocking out light. It grows rapidly - a stem can produce up to 10 metres of new growth in a season. Stems trailing along the ground can root at each stem node to produce new plants.

It can produce 1000 seeds per square metre. Seeds are transported by wind, water and in soil or gravel. Fragments of the vine are also spread by water and in dumped garden rubbish; these can take root and form new infestations.

In Otago, old man's beard grows in gardens, hedges, along roadsides and river banks, in native bush, commercial forests and shelter belts. It thrives in shady sites and is frost tolerant. Its light-seeking habits encourage its climbing ability.

How do I identify old man's beard?

  • Deciduous (loses its leaves in winter)
  • Vines
  • May grow to 15cm in diameter or larger
  • Young vines are ribbed and often purple in colour
  • Older vines are woody, often grey/brown in colour
  • Older vines flake when bent
  • Five leaftlets per stem
  • Flowers greenish-white, appear December-February
  •  Fluffy, pom-pom shaped seed heads appear after flowering.

It is important that old man's beard is not confused with native clematis. The natives usually have only three leaflets per leaf and flower in spring.

  • Flowers
    Developing Flower greenish-white colour
    Mature flower
    pale yellow colour
  • Vines
    Young vines have longitudinal ribs
    Mature vines have stringy, pale brown bark
    Old vines are woody and stringy, often grey in colour
    Can be 6-7cm thick
  • Leaves
    Stems have 5 leaflets - native species usually only have 3 leaflets
    The vine is deciduous (it loses its leaves each winter)

ClematisSuggested control options

Can I trace the vine back to ground level?

Yes. If you can trace the vine, you can cut the vine 5cm above ground level and use a paint brush to paint the stump with a Glyphosate-based product. Glyphosate is a common active chemical which you can purchase in small quantities from supermarkets and garden and hardware outlets. Product trade names include G360, Roundup, Watkins Weedkiller, Westminster G360, Butlers Glyphosate and many others.

Disclaimer: Mention of product names does not endorse these products nor imply criticism of similar products not mentioned.

Glyphosate is a safe herbicide to use, leaving no residual in the soil. If you use it correctly and follow instructions on the label, it's also safe for you and your pets.

You can leave vines and foliage above the cut vine to break down naturally. You'll see the vegetation wilt a few days after cutting the vine. Where there's no wilting, you may have missed some vines. Starting at the live foliage, you can work back to check for vines you haven't cut.

Yes I can trace the vine - but I would prefer not to use a herbicide

.If you don't want to use a herbicide, the best option is to dig the stump out. If you don't paint the stump with a herbicide or dig it out, the stump will continue growing and put out multiple leaders, making control even more difficult.


  • Where there are multiple stems, treat all stems or dig out entire root systems.
  • Check the stump regularly for re-growth.
  • Take out a section of the vine above the cut stump to ensure hanging vines don't come into contact with the ground as re-growth may occur.
  • If it's growing in a hedge and is hard to trace, two people are better than one - one person tugs on the vine and the other person traces it back to the ground.
  • If it's growing on a common boundary, talk to your neighbour and deal with the situation together.
  • After cutting the vine and treating the stump, leave old man's beard where it is. It will break down naturally and you avoid damaging desirable species by trying to pull it out. It also means you don't have to worry about getting rid of vegetation.

Old Mans Beard growing up shedI'm having problems tracing the vines or even locating a vine at all.

Often old man's beard rambles over banks, grows on waste or vacant land, or grows so densely that tracing vines back to ground level is impossible. If it's rambling over the ground, it will have put out roots at regular intervals and the best control option is an overall foliage spray.

Overall foliage spraying at ground level

A knapsack sprayer gives good coverage andresults in a short time. While many herbicides are effective, they can cause problems in urban areas through off-target drift affecting desirable species or the chemical remaining in the soil.

An effective herbicide you can apply with minimum of risk in urban areas are glyphosate based products. These include trade names such as G360, Roundup, Watkins Weedkiller, Westminster G360, Butlers Glyphosate and many others. If using herbicides, read the label and follow the manufacturer's instructions especially regarding mixing rates and wearing safety clothing.

Make sure you spray all foliage. To get the best results, spray old man's beard from mid- January to mid-April when it's in full leaf.

Glyphosate products are non-selective, meaning any plants that come into contact with the herbicide may be affected.

What happens if I can't reach the foliage to spray?

Cut all aerial vines as high as you can reach and then treat the rest of the plant by spraying foliage on the ground and as high as the cut vines.

Winter control

Old man's beard is largely deciduous (loses its leaves in winter). As there's little or no foliage in winter, or foliage is in poor condition and won't take up chemicals, spraying is not an option. However, vine cutting and stump treatment is an effective method especially when old man's beard is growing among deciduous species. Once desirable species lose their leaves, entangled vines are more visible, accessible and often easier to control.


Old man's beard infestations require regular monitoring for re-growth. Re-growth should be dealt with as soon as practical using the best method for the situation.

If you're still unsure of the best approach, contact ORC Compliance staff who can give advice.

Follow up management

Control of old man's beard is not a one-off task. Check old man's beard sites regularly for regrowth after initial eradication. It may be necessary to re-treat plants and remove seedlings.

Land occupier obligation

Under the Pest Management Strategy for Otago, land occupiers are required by law to destroy any old man's beard on their land. 

Email us for more detailed old man's beard information

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