Clematis aristata

Australian Clematis, Wild Clematis, Goat's Beard or Old Man's Beard,

Family: Ranunculaceae

A vigorous woody climber growing to 6 metres high or more, forming a dense low groundcover or midstorey cover.

it is found in dry and wet forests and woodlands of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. It has been recorded in Western Australia, but there is doubt about the accuracy of this record. It grows along the entire coastal and tablelands areas and into the south-western slopes of NSW.

Usually found in moist sheltered sites, rainforest margins and wet sclerophyll forests.

Clematis spp. can have simple or compound leaves arranged oppositely. In this species, leaves are compound and mostly trifoliolate (or simple leaves on juvenile plants); with each leaflet to 100 mm long and to 45 mm wide, ovate in shape and with margins with few to many teeth or occasionally entire; if teeth numerous then spaced approximately evenly around margins.

Clematis spp. have flowers with 4 obvious sepals with absent or minute petals, usually with many stamens. In this species, flowering is in spring to early summer, and is a mass display of attractive white to cream star-shaped (4-sepaled flowers, petals are absent). The flowers are borne in short panicles with each flower up to 70 mm diameter. Flowers are either male or female. Plants have to outcross with pollen movement most likely facilitated by insects.

The fruits are achenes (a fruit type common in the unrelated daisy family, with a very thin coat) and are produced in fluffy-like heads (somewhat resembling a dandelion head) as each achene has a plume-like attachment of hairs (hence the common name of Old Man’s Beard).

In the garden

This is a popular and hardy garden plant. It prefers a semi-shaded or shaded position and cool deep soils and will withstand heavy pruning. It is a vigorous climber and may become a problem by smothering other plants, especially in small gardens. It grows very readily once established, especially on sandy or loam soils. It can grow well on any fence where there are gaps between palings or uprights (eg: pickett fences), or a trellis.

Can smother other plants, so needs to be kept under control with some lateral pruning.

Pests have not been noticed on this species.


Propagation is from fresh seed and also from cuttings of semi-hardened stems.

Other information

Several varieties have been previously described but are now not formally recognised. These included:
• var. blanda – with small flowers and twice-divided leaflets which is found from Victoria to Tasmania
• var. dennisae – with red filaments in the flowers and found in eastern Victoria
• var. longiseta – with yellowish-hairy flowers found in Queensland

This species is very similar to the co-occurring Clematis glycinoides and the two are hard to differentiate. C. glycinoides tends to have less toothing in the leaves and will be found in drier areas.

Clematis is a large genus of woody climbers with about 300 species worldwide. Australia has about 10 native species. NSW currently has 8 species.

Very common after fire, regenerating from seed. Seedlings have strongly variegated leaves.

Clematis – from the Ancient Greek klimatatis (κληματιτής), derived from klima, meaning a “vine” or “branched vine”.

aristata – from the Latin, referring to “aristate” meaning “bearded”, referring to the bristle-like appendage of the fruit.

Australian National Herbarium – Clematis aristata profile page

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Clematis aristata profile page          https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Clematis~aristata

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.