Poison Ivy isn't the only villain you should be worrying about. As spring brings our native foliage to life, invasive threats to our trees emerge as well. English ivy is an evergreen vine commonly used as ground cover and as a climbing ornamental around buildings and homes. A non-native vine, it's lack of native pests and its fast growing habit make it an unchecked and serious threat for our trees and ecosystems in the southeast and the western United States. English ivy climbs and kills trees, engulfing branches and blocking out the sunlight to tree leaves. During winter months or high winds, the additional weight of ice or snow on the ivy can increase the likelihood of falling limbs.
Ivy is highly invasive, and, if left unchecked, it can overrun an entire area, stifling native plant and animal diversity. Immediate removal is recommended to reduce its impact and to reduce removal efforts over time. English ivy can grow up to 3 feet climbing trees per year.
If you have a tree completely covered in English ivy near your home or office, contact an arborist to do a safety inspection. Your tree may need to be pruned or removed, depending on the extent of the ivy.
Always practice safety first!
Wear gloves when removing invasives in case you come across poison ivy, poison oak, or thorns. Because ivy often leaves dead branches as it climbs the tree, it is extremely dangerous to attempt to pull the ivy off of the tree. Pulling the vines out of the tree can bring down dead branches, which may cause serious injury.
Removing invasive species during the growing season stunts growth. However, multiple removal efforts are typically necessary, especially if roots remain in the ground or if the ivy has already reached maturity and started reproducing.
To remove ivy climbing a tree, give it a haircut. To do this, pull the roots out of the ground if possible. If you cannot remove the roots, cut the ivy at the lowest point possible. Small pruners, loppers, hand saws, and axes can all be used for this task. Next, on the same vine, make a cut as high as you can comfortably reach. This cut will ensure the ivy does not resprout and latch onto its original stalk to climb back up the tree.
If the ivy is attached to the bark of the tree, use a weeding tool or a screwdriver to pry the vine away from the tree before you cut.
Ground cover ivy near trees can become a threat to trees as well. Clear the ground of English Ivy within 6 feet of a tree. To remove ivy growing across a large area, try pulling up strips (typically from top to bottom) and rolling the ivy into a tumbleweed-like ball. Leave behind native vegetation and dead wood as you go to prevent soil erosion and encourage native diversity.
Most chemical herbicides should be applied in the fall or winter, when they prove less of a threat to native plants. However, stump application can be used if desired.