Deadly beauty . . . It may look pretty, but Old Man's Beard smothers plants it grows on. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The Otago Regional Council biosecurity team is out and about this summer inspecting properties for Old Man’s Beard.

The council wants support from the public to control the plant, which is considered a pest, and stop it from spreading further.

The vine is easiest to spot during the summer when it is in flower.

As it matures, its flowers get a distinctive woolly look to them, a bit like an old man’s beard hence the name.

It may look beautiful while flowering, but Old Man’s Beard is one of the most threatening climbing plants introduced to New Zealand.

Originally introduced as a decorative garden plant, it jumped the fence and is now threatening Otago’s biodiversity by smothering native species.

Old Man’s Beard (or Clematis vitalba) spreads easily, producing up to 1000 seeds per sq m which are spread by wind, water and birds.

The plant grows quickly; a stem can produce up to 10m of new growth in a season.

Environmental officer biosecurity Kirk Robertson said the team was happy to give advice on controlling Old Man’s Beard.

“We already have a lot of garden enthusiasts in the community who have been doing their part to control this plant, which is great, because we need support from the community to trim Old Man’s Beard around the region.”

Under the ORC’s regional pest management plan, the rules for Old Man’s Beard require everyone in Otago to destroy the plant on the land that they occupy.

However, getting rid of it just once may not do the trick, as it grows aggressively and often needs ongoing control.

“We recommend either digging out the roots, or cutting vines close to the roots and treating them with herbicide. It’s best to leave the cut vines where they are to break down naturally, rather than heaping them on the ground where they can take root and grow new plants,” Mr Robertson said.

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