Invasive Clematis vitalba, Old Man's Beard - also called Traveler's Joy - is one of the largest invasive species in the county. Each stem can produce 30 feet of growth in one season.
It prevents growth of native vegetation. It can cause trees to collapse. After the tree collapses, C. vitalba grows in layers several meters thick along the ground. The lack of light prevents the regeneration of any vegetation below it.
Homeowners can help by cutting vines and removing roots on their property and/or organizing neighborhood work parties.
Call Judy Jackson and Jason Ontjes, Field Assistant at the San Juan County Noxious Weed Control Program for advice about controlling the plants.
The plant, easier to see now because it is in bloom, is in seed. Each plant can produce over 100,000 seeds.
Seedlings can be hand pulled. Larger stems need to be cut. It is okay to cut them low to the ground and as high as you can reach. However, the material should not be moved due to the likelihood of dispersing seeds.
Invasive Clematis vitalba have prolific seed production by means of wind dispersal. The plants quickly recover from physical damage with the ability to resprout. Roots are produced from stem fragments and from attached stems.
All vines running along the ground and just under the surface must be dug out. Roots broken off or cut off at least 2" below the surface usually do not survive. Eradication requires multiple treatments.
Planting conifers will help limit germination by reducing available sunlight. Dense, native ground cover may also significantly reduce seed germination.
Invasive Clematis vitalba is especially visible on Orcas and San Juan islands. Since the species is listed as a Class C noxious weed in the state, control is not required in San Juan County. Controlling it is recommended.
The county does have the ability to designate the plant for control in San Juan County. The designation requires approval by the county's noxious weed control board. Board representatives can be contacted through the Noxious Weed Board website.
At this time, the county is taking an educational approach, providing management strategies and resource assistance. It is not a priority to remove noxious weeds along county roads.
Contacting the County Council members might help change that policy.
There are various financial issues with the disposal of noxious weeds. The Noxious Weed Board will work with transfer stations to establish the most sensible and economic way without necessarily having to ship noxious weeds off island.
If you have Clematis vitalba on your land or would like to be involved in reducing its effects, get out there and make a difference!
Meanwhile, I'll be out there doing what I can to help educate the public and motivate a call for action!