Friday, November 20, 2015

English Ivy - Hedera helix

Though it is thought to be a beautiful plant by many (myself included), English Ivy- Hedera helix is a very invasive plant in our area and can cause severe damage to properties and even death to the trees it grows on without proper management. English Ivy vines quickly and easily take over areas that are cleared/disturbed, woods lines, brick work, trellises, garden areas, and even tree trunks / canopies. Ivy can decimate the natural ecosystem by girdling out mature trees and other plantings and overtaking native ground coverings. It is native to Europe, Western Asia and Northern Africa and was introduced to the United States by European immigrants. Common uses as an ornamental vine, landscape buffer, ground cover and climbing vine have all made English Ivy very popular. Over the past couple decades English Ivy has spread from a simple ornamental vine to a naturalized (and very invasive) vine in 18 of The Unites States including Maryland.

Image Citation (Ivy): James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

English Ivy is an evergreen vine (one of it's very attractive features) that is a member of the Ginseng family (Araliaceae). It is a creeping or climbing vine that can grown at height of over 90 feet if given the opportunity or structure to adhere too. The leaves are leathery or waxy in appearance, generally having five points in a palmate (hand) shape. They are a deep green in color when young with white veining, lightening in color with age. When mature the leaves produce a pale greenish-yellow flower in the fall season. Once the vine enters a forest it quickly overtakes the native vegetation and prevents them from regenerating, it also interferes with the ecosystem by altering food sources and habitat for wildlife this is by far it's biggest downfall. The vine attaches itself to structures and trees by small hairlike roots, when on a mature tree it can kill it and cause the tree below to die, sometimes rapidly. On brickwork, grouted or mortared surfaces it can easily break through the material causing problems that often times can not be seen due to the vines coverage.

Image Citation (Ivy Infestation) David J. Moorhead, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

The fruit of English Ivy is a black-purple color with three stone textured seeds inside. This fruit is only eaten in small amounts by wildlife as they carry a slight toxicity. When humans ingest the fruits it can cause severe discomfort which is often combined with, diarrhea, nausea, upset stomach, fever, or even the onset of a coma. Rash may also occur in persons with sensitive skin after direct contact with the leaves and/or sap.

Image Citation (Ivy overtaking tree): Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut, Bugwood.org

Control of English Ivy is often ongoing and intense. You can manually, mechanically or even chemically remove or address the infestation. With small areas control is much easier, larger more established areas often require a combination of all three methods to truly eliminate the growth. If any roots remain in an area they will likely re-sprout throughout the season. Mulching is another method to help control/eliminate new growth on ground areas, by covering the ivy with a thick layer of mulch continuously over two full growing seasons you can kill the vine. Very large growths often required the use of herbicides often on a continuous basis until the growth is fully eradicated. Tree climbing vines can be cut at ground level prior to applying herbicide to the rooted section of the vine as well as the ground level leaves. Generally the first attempt at controlling or eradicating English Ivy is not successful by any single method.

Yes, it is beautiful but it should never be a recommended planting in landscapes or gardens in our area. If you must have English Ivy in your gardens do so in a container where you can trim it frequently and absolutely prevent the roots from spreading. This type of Ivy is best suited as a houseplant in our area!

Meet more trees and their pests on our website: www.ArundelTreeService.com or follow our blog www.MeetaTree.com


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