Clematis vitalba ‘Old Man’s Beard’
Ranunculaceae: scrambling hedgerow perennial to 20m. Found mainly on chalky soils, but not limited to them. The flowers are creamy-white, with prominent stamens, borne in clusters, flowering from July-August. The clusters of seeds form woolly whitish plumes, these give the plants common name of Old Man’s Beard. The leaves are divided into 3-5 leaflets. Locally common in central and Southern England, and Wales. Native to Europe, including Britain, from the Netherlands south and east to North Africa and the Caucasus.
The young shoots are said be able to be cooked, and used like hop shoots (Humulus lupulus). All parts of the plant are poisonous, yet it is said that the toxic principle is dissipated by heat or by drying. Caution is advised due to reports of toxicity.
The leaves are analgesic, diuretic and rubefacient, the boiled roots and stems are used as a cure for the itch. When applied in the nostrils, the plant juice has been used to relieve migraine attacks, but it can also destroy the mucous membranes. The plant should not be taken internally because it is poisonous. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant, can be used in the treatment of rheumatism and skin eruptions.
Sow seed as soon as it is obtained in a cold frame. Pre-soak the seed for 12