Page content Page content Section navigation Topic navigation Accessibility keys Sitemap Search Contact us portal

Old man's beard header

Progressive containment

Old man's beard

Progressive containment

Reduce the amount of old man's beard and limit the locations that have it.

Why it is a pest plant


Identifying Features

Production threat Environmental threat Public threat

Old man’s beard is generally now recognised as the most damaging alien climber in New Zealand. One plant can blanket an area up to 180 square metres. Old man’s beard is a vigorous climber that covers and strangles desirable trees and shrubs, eventually blocking out light and killing them. Native bush is particularly vulnerable and large areas can quickly become dominated by this pest.

A native of Europe, old man’s beard was introduced to New Zealand as an ornamental plant. Since then its spread in the Waikato has been recorded across the region, mainly in the King Country, Taupō and Hamilton. There are scattered sites in the Waikato, Waipa and Hauraki districts.

New infestations can come from garden waste dumped in the countryside. The seeds of established plants spread by wind and water, and stem sections sprout and reroot wherever they touch the ground.

Related species

Native clematis (10 species). Note, old man’s beard should not be confused with any native species of clematis, which only have three ‘leaflets’ per leaf (old man’s beard has five leaflets per leaf).

Identifying features - old man's beard

Old man’s beard is an erect summer annual growing to 2.5m high but more usually about 1m high.


  • Small (2cm in diameter) four-petalled greenish-white sweet scented flowers
  • Flowers in summer to early autumn (December to February).

Fruit/ seed

  • The fruit produces distinctive grey, fluffy balls of seed heads are produced in autumn (March to September).


  • Leaves often have a serrated edge and are covered invery fine white hairs.
  • Adult leaves (leaflets) are usually in groups of five, and seedling leaves in groups of three.
  • Leaves have a dull surface.

Identifying features - native clematis (10 species)


  • Flowers spring to early summer (September-November).

Fruit/ seed

  • Varies between species but many are similar to old man’s beard.


  • Leaves are usually in groups of three, but occasionally in groups of six.

Responsibility for control

Waikato Regional Council is responsible for the control of old man’s beard. If you think you’ve seen it, call us.

Waikato Regional Council is responsible for controlling old man’s beard – do not attempt to remove it yourself. However, landowners/occupiers are encouraged to report old man’s beard on their properties and liaise with Waikato Regional Council in areas where control programmes are in place. Old man’s beard is also banned from being sold, propagated, distributed or included in commercial displays.

How to control old man’s beard

If you see these weeds on your property, do not cut or treat it. Call 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732) to report them to your local biosecurity pest plant officer.

Image set comparing old man's beard and native clematis

More information


  • For advice and additional information on control methods, call our pest plant staff on freephone 0800 BIOSEC (0800 246 732).
  • Chemical company representatives, farm supply stores and garden centres can also be good sources for advice.


View, download or order the following publications  or call our freephone 0800 800 401.

  • National Pest Plant Accord (Manual of plants banned from sale, propagation and distribution) ($10.00 plus GST)
  • Plant Me Instead! (Plants to use in place of common pest plants) (free)
  • Poisonous Plants and Fungi in New Zealand – A Guide for Parents, Schools and Child Minders (free)
  • Waikato Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) (free) (Section 5.23, page 83)
  • Waikato Regional Council pest guide (free)
  • What makes a pest a pest? A summary of the Waikato Regional Pest Management Plan (free)


Weedbusters logo

Click on the printer icon to download a printable copy of this factsheet >>> Click here for a printable copy of this factsheet