English Ivy

Has English Ivy Reached a Critical Mass in Richmond?   Consider this: 

  • Last spring (2012) we pulled over 100 ivy seedlings from a small wooded area in our neighborhood.  This particular spot does not have a significant number of invasive plants (yet) and so it was easy to spot the seedlings in the leaf litter.  It did not take long to find them either.  The area we surveyed that day was less than an acre.
  • We are also pulling ivy seedlings from our yards on a regular basis; that has not been necessary in the past.
  • Last, it seems that no matter where you are in Richmond, English Ivy is no more than a few blocks away, except maybe downtown.  Now that the leaves are off the trees it is obvious; just take a look as you drive through any neighborhood.

English ivy is a threat to trees and to the ecosystem.

In natural areas ivy covers the ground and becomes a monoculture.  Small plants are smothered,  the seed of other species often do not germinate, and you now have an ivy desert which is a fairly useless habitat.      Ivy competes with the trees for nutrients and water and, in the most extreme cases, can cover branches and  may eventually overwhelm the trees.   Ivy vines also add weight to the trees making them more likely to be damaged or to come down during wind events or heavy snow and ice.

To better understand how to deal with this plant, let’s look at the life cycle and how ivy is spread.

ivy cycle

English ivy is a bit different from most other plants in that it does not form flowers and therefore does not bear fruit when it grows horizontally on the ground.  When the plant grows vertically (usually up a tree) it will form horizontal branches at about 6 feet high and when it is about 6 years old.  These horizontal branches on the tree are the mature form of the plant and they will form  flowers and fruit.  The seed is then spread by birds.  The leaves on these branches look different than leaves on the  ground.  At a glance you may not even realize that this is ivy.

Control ???

 The longer we postpone, the more ivy there will be.  Controlling this menace will take a huge effort by many people over a long time, but please don’t let that stop you!  

  • Keep ivy from growing up trees by cutting the vine at the base of the tree – this prevents spread to other locations.
  • When cutting ivy vines from trees, be careful not to cut the tree!  The only living tissue on the trunk of the tree is right under the bark.
  • Do NOT pull large ivy vines from trees.  You may pull the bark off the tree, weak or dead branches could come crashing down, or you might destroy birds’ nests or disturb a bee hive.  Just cut the vines  and leave the tops to die.
  • Learn to recognize ivy seedlings and nip them in the bud (pull them up)!
  • Make your property an Ivy Free Zone.
  • Every tree without ivy is progress!  Every patch of ivy removed is an opportunity for better habitat.
  • Click here for information on removing English ivy.

English ivy collage

Top left: Ivy flowers                                           Top right: Ivy berries 

Don’t Procrastinate – Practice deVINE Intervention Now


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