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Snapping an Old Man’s Beard

Seed heads of wild clematis

No, this post isn’t about me when I haven’t shaved for a few days.

It’s about the Wild Clematis (Clematis vitalba), a plant also known as Old Man’s Beard.

The flower of the Wild Clematis is white and star-like. It flowers in July and August and is visited by bees for its pollen. It’s a fairly small flower so isn’t particularly noticeable.

The flower of the Wild Clematis

However, after the flower has died and turned to seed, the seed head is very noticeable. Have a look at the photo beneath.I just happened to glance into the field and was amazed to see all the bushes draped in white and shining in the sunshine. I thought at first it was sheep’s wool.

The seed-heads of the Wild Clematis forming a cloak of white over hawthorn bushes

Going a little closer though and it was clear it wasn’t wool but seed-heads..



The seed-head of the Wild Clematis has long, silky hairs which form grey tufted balls. The silky hairs assist in the dispersal of the seeds.


These are ready to take off in the wind, to spread their seeds in pastures new!



Another name for the Wild Clematis is Traveller’s Joy. Seeing these hedgerows cascading in white certainly brought a smile to my face as I travelled through the countryside.


The Wild Clematis is an example of why I love walking in the countryside. It’s a theme I frequently refer to in my blog posts. It’s Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary.

I can frequently and easily pass by something that I don’t pay much attention to, yet when I take time to inspect it more closely, I see an object of fragility, grace and beauty.




Finally, it’s very obvious from the final picture why it’s also called Old Man’s Beard!


In fact, with Christmas approaching, I’m sure there are some Father Christmases and Santa Clauses around who could use such a fine-looking “beard”.

31 thoughts on “Snapping an Old Man’s Beard”

  1. How interesting. We saw similar plants in various places in England in September. I wonder if this is what they were. I took many photos because they were so pretty. I like the name Traveller’s Joy. And I also like your observation about taking notice. I try to remind myself to look beyond the obvious when we travel. Lovely photos, Denzil.

    1. Thanks Carol. They were probably the same ones then Carol; they are pretty common in England, until the winds come and blows them all away. Hope it’s not too hot over there still.

    1. Thanks for the link Mark. I was not aware of this poem, nor the plant, which I had to look up. It appears to be Artemisia. I am however familiar with some other of Thomas’s poems. I can’t pass an aspen tree without thinking of this poem. And recently I came across a deserted country railway station which reminded me of his Adlestrop.

    1. I wouldn’t recommend it for your garden though Judy. It has a tendency to get everywhere, as you can imagine from looking at the seeds. And if left uncontrolled it can smother the plants it’s climbing on.

    1. Thanks for your positive comment Yvonne. Yes this plant is certainly a determined one. In woods it can get last for years, its stems can be as thick as an arm.

  2. Denzil – great post and pictures. I appreciate the reminder to notice the details in our every day walks or journey. Being present and paying attention is the best gift we can give ourselves. I love how interesting nature is.

  3. Traveller’s joy indeed! All the hedgerows around my garden are frilled with white froth of wild clematis. Cheers up January for certain. Thanks for sharing your delightful photos. All the best. Karen

    1. Thanks Karen, glad to see you are enjoying them too. They don’t stay on the hedgerows for long though when there is a strong wind about, do they?

  4. You don’t look old from any angle. looks at you suspiciously from top to bottom
    The last lines made me crack a wide smile. I was grinning like a baby on sugar rush.
    Your remarks about the countryside felt genuine and heartfelt.
    “Seeing the Extraordinary in the Ordinary,” I am positive that it’s your specialty.
    Congrats on publishing another grand post!
    Can’t wait to

  5. Nature is remarkable in its ability to pass on seed. Also in the beauty of that seedhead. Your images are stunning of something so simple that many would pass without so much of a glance. Very nice post. Much enjoyed.

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