Clematis aristata

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

Family: Ranunculaceae

A vigorous woody climber growing to 6 m high or more in dry and wet forests 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.

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.

Leaves mostly ternate (a compound leaf of 3 leaflets) (or simple leaves on juvenile plants) which each leaf/leaflet to 100 mm long and to 45 mm wide, ovate in shape. Margins with few to many teeth or occasionally entire, if teeth numerous then spaced approximately evenly around margins.

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 with flowers occurring on separate plants (dioecious). Plants have to outcross with pollen movement most likely facilitated by insects.

The fruits are achenes (fruits 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

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.

Very common after fire, regenerating from seed.

Not considered at risk in the wild.

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.


By Jeff Howes