By: Mary Ellen Ellis
Controlling Traveler’s Joy may clematis become necessary if you find this vine on your property. This Clematis species is invasive in the U.S. and is especially widespread in the Pacific Northwest. Without good control, the vine can take over areas, blocking out sunlight and even bringing down branches and small trees with its weight.
Also known as Old Man’s Beard and Traveler’s Joy clematis, this plant is officially termed Clematis vitalba. It is a deciduous vine that flowers in the summer, producing creamy white or light greenish white blooms. In the fall they produce fluffy heads of seeds.
Traveler’s Joy clematis is a climbing, woody vine. It can grow vines as long as 100 feet (30 m.). Native to Europe and Africa, it is considered an invasive weed in much of the U.S.
The best growing environment for Traveler’s Joy is soil that is chalky or rich in limestone and calcium, fertile, and well draining. It prefers temperate, moist conditions. In the U.S., it often crops up on forest edges or in areas that have been disturbed by construction.
While in its native range, Traveler’s Joy is often used ornamentally, it creates a lot of problems in the U.S. Clematis weed control may be necessary in your area for several reasons. The vines can grow so tall they block out sunlight for other plants, the vines can climb trees and shrubs (their weight breaking branches), and they can quickly destroy understory trees and shrubs in forests.
Glyphosate is known to be effective against Traveler’s Joy, but that comes with serious health and environmental concerns. To avoid herbicides, you will have to stick with mechanical means of managing this weed.
Cutting down and destroying the vine is possible but can be time consuming and energy draining. Catch it early and remove plants and roots in winter. In places like New Zealand, there has been some success using sheep to control Traveler’s Joy, so if you have livestock, let them have at it. Goats are usually known for their “weed eating” too. Studies are currently underway to determine if any insects can be used to control this weed.
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Clematis is a genus of climbing vines popular in gardens for their very showy flowers and attractive, whirlwind-like seed clusters shortly after. Since the flowers are the most important aspect of these plants, their bloom time dictates when and how to prune clematis.
Once you know a little about your own plant, a step by step guide may help you through the pruning process of your specific variety.
Clematis is the scientific name and the most common name for this group of plants, but some of the old and popular species are also called traveler’s joy, virgin’s bower, and old man’s beard.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and similar herbicides available under other brand names including Buccaneer, Kill Zall, Glyphos and Kleenup, is an enzyme-blocking chemical that receives an excellent ranking when it comes to zapping encroaching clematis like the USDA zone 4-to-11 vining evergreen known as old man’s beard (Clematis vitalba). Nicknamed "traveler’s joy" for the hundreds of thousands of tiny, fluffy seeds borne by air up and down the West Coast, this aggressor has earned a “noxious” ranking in 46 states. Other potential invaders include sweet autumn Clematis (Clematis terniflora) in zones 5 to 9.
Preventing the introduction of invasive species is the first line of defense against new invasions. However, even the best prevention efforts will not stop all invasive species introductions. Next to prevention, the most time and cost-effective way to manage the potential negative impacts of new invasive plants is through Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) efforts. On this page you can learn about the weeds that we are actively looking for and that we would like your help in locating. You can learn how to report them if found and also about becoming a Weed Watcher and joining our EDRR network.
EDRR efforts include detecting noxious weed infestations when they first arrive in a given area, while their populations are still localized and small, and then rapidly beginning the control of these species. These efforts greatly increase the likelihood that new invasions will be addressed successfully and new weeds will be prevented from becoming established and widespread in a given area. The costs associated with catching weeds before they gain a foothold are also drastically less than those of long-term invasive species management for noxious weeds that have already become widespread.
* Note we are only actively controlling these species in the area east of the Sandy River Corridor
The East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District (EMSWCD) has developed an Early Detection and Rapid Response (EDRR) Program to detect and eradicate new invasive plants in eastern Multnomah County before they get out of control, and we are asking for your help. We have a list of eleven weed species that we wish to keep out of Multnomah County, or contain to the locations where they have already established. This list of species is known as our “EDRR list”. We are soliciting reports of the species from this list whenever they are found, and after gaining permission from whomever owns the land, we are committed to rapid deployment of a control team to the reported location.
We greatly need your help to detect these new invaders. Read below to learn how you can help us prevent the next noxious weed introduction and follow the links to learn more about each of the weeds on our EDRR list. With your help we can prevent the next devastating weed from invading the places we live and love.
The battle to stop the invasion cannot win with only the eyes of our staff. We need your help! The more eyes on the ground we have, the better chance we have of keeping new invaders out of Multnomah County. We provide trainings to individuals, groups, and organizations so they can learn how to identify, detect and report the weeds we wish to prevent from taking over Multnomah County.
We are currently organizing volunteers who want to take a role in this natural resource issue.
Our crew is in the field most days actively searching for new occurrences of invasive species, but there is a lot of land that we just don’t have time to visit. It is the most crucial part of any EDRR program to have the public involved in the detection of new invasive species infestations. This means you learn the weeds on the EDRR list and look for them as you conduct your daily activities and recreation such as hiking, biking or on a walk around your neighborhood. We are actively recruiting interested parties to further strengthen our EDRR program.
They float in the wind, get shaken off pets and wildlife, travel the world stuck to luggage or clothes and hitch rides by plane, ship, train, truck and car. Invasive weeds enter backyards in multiple ways and once there can cause havoc.
“With some of these weeds, you have to fight them forever,” said Ed Peachey, a weed specialist for Oregon State University Extension Service. “Many times, it’s more a process of controlling them rather than eradicating them.”
The first line of defense, Peachey said, is to get familiar with your weeds. Whether they are annual or perennial plants can determine the approach to curbing them. Annuals spread by seed and die when the weather gets cold, but the seed remain viable in the soil for years. Some examples are sharp point fluvellin, velvetleaf, puncturevine, horseweed, western bittercress and oxalis.
Perennial weeds thrive year after year with root systems that may be tough to eradicate. They can spread by seed, but some of the more difficult perennials also spread with creeping root systems. These super aggressive weeds include blackberry, Scotch broom, bindweed (also known as invasive morning glory), horsetail, English ivy, poison oak and old man’s beard (also known as traveler’s joy an invasive species of clematis).
Peachey’s advice is to pull anything you don’t recognize and get it identified. Weeds can get a foothold quickly and are easier to manage before they get out of control. You only have to look at natural areas like Forest Park in Portland to see invasive weeds like English ivy engulfing native plants.
Get a hand with identification by posting a photo to Ask an Expert , an online Q&A feature from OSU Extension, or taking a photo or fresh sample to your local Extension office if it is open. The experts can also offer suggestions on fighting whatever weed is invading your garden.
The best hope for controlling annual weeds is pulling and keeping them from going to seed, according to Peachey. Get them out when they are small. Since the seed can live in the soil for years, you’ll need to be vigilant and keep pulling new seedlings year after year. If you keep pulling as they pop through the soil, eventually, you should get the population under control and have to weed less.
Though unsightly and frustrating, annual weeds are nothing compared to perennials, which take a high level of patience and persistence to contain. Anyone who has wrestled blackberry knows how difficult invasive perennial weeds are to keep in check. Digging out as many roots as you can and then continuing to pull new shoots can eventually eradicate the plant, but it takes vigilance and years to succeed. For more information on how to deal with weeds, Peachey and Chip Bubl, an OSU Extension horticulturist, weigh in with some tips:
Organic mulches such as bark dust, wood chips, leaves, straw and grass clippings keep weeds under control and improve soil as they break down. Apply a layer of organic mulch 2 to 4 inches deep to your garden. Avoid the leaves of black walnut trees (Juglans nigra) or tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), which can inhibit growth of plants and seeds. Don’t use lawn clippings if the lawn was mowed when weeds were in seed. If you are trying to control perennial weeds, a layer of garden fabric can be placed on the soil before applying mulch.
Compost is one of the worst offenders of bringing in weeds to the garden. Get recommendations of businesses that sell compost from friends or neighbors who have had loads without many weed seeds. Ask employees at the business what they do to their compost to avoid weed seeds.
Bird seed is notorious for starting weed infestations. Avoid this by buying black oil sunflower seeds, which many birds prefer, or put a tray under the bird feeder to catch any errant seed.
Hay can contain herbicide residue and many weed seeds. It’s better to use straw, which has much of the seeds removed.
Plastic sheeting may also be used to control weeds. Black plastic reduces light and prevents weed growth. For vegetable gardens, you will need drip irrigation and appropriate fertilizer in place before you lay the plastic. Make slits in the plastic, and if weeds appear in the planting slits, immediately remove them. For other areas of the garden, pull weeds, cover with plastic and leave for six weeks. The weeds will “starve” without sunlight.
Sprinklers water a large area but encourage weed growth. Drip irrigation delivers water only where you want it and will slow the number of weeds in the garden.
Hand pulling works well in small gardens and raised beds. Pull when the soil is damp, but not wet. Try to get to annual weeds before they go to seed or you’ll get a whole new crop. When youspull perennial weeds, you likely won’t get the entire the root system. However, if you persistently remove new weedy shoots, you prevent the plant from storing carbohydrates and may, eventually, kill the perennial plant. This process is called carbohydrate starvation and must be done with passion almost every day to be successful. But people really can control morning glory and other perennial weeds with this level of commitment.
Hoes are a traditional and effective way to weed. Several styles are available. A scuffle hoe is better for larger areas. The hula, or action hoe is a lightweight scuffle hoe. Pushing and pulling it just under the soil surface eliminates newly emerging weeds. It is less effective against well-established weeds. The lightweight Warren hoe has a heart-shaped blade and is useful for cultivating between plants.
Small hand cultivators are good for weeding small areas and between closely spaced plants. Another handy tool is the dandelion digger (also known as a weeder, cultivator or asparagus knife). It is a 10- to 14-inch metal rod with a two-pronged blade and works well for digging long taproots. Hori Hori knives are a popular choice for any sort of hand weeding.
Herbicides can be used with varying success and should be used judiciously. Choose an herbicide that is registered for the weed you’re trying to kill (it will say on the label). Always follow the directions. Be careful not to allow spray to drift to other plants, many of which are susceptible. Roundup can be productive against annual weeds but is usually not as successful for perennials or shrubs. Crossbow herbicide can be more effective for shrubs such as blackberry and Scotch broom.
Dispose of invasive weeds that are in seed by bagging and putting in the garbage bin.