Sunday, December 30, 2007

Eradicating English Ivy

Many people plant English ivy (Hedera helix) in their yard thinking that it's a nice, easy-to-maintain, evergreen ground cover, or will help stabilize steep slopes (it won't). They're correct that it's low maintenance and green year round, and that's part of the problem. The plant, which is native to western Asia, north Africa, and parts of Europe has found a very comfortable home in the eastern US, and spreads aggressively, shading out native seedlings and strangling mature trees, as in the picture below:

This is the perfect time of year to begin an eradication plan. English ivy can be removed mechanically (i.e. by hand) fairly easily as the tendrils are shallow-rooted and will come up in clumps if yanked. If you have ivy climbing trees, as in the photo above, girdle each of the vines around the circumference of the tree. By the spring or summer, the vines should be dead and will be much easier to remove.

Like any invasive control effort, if the plant is established in your yard, it may take two or three rounds to get it removed completely, but once you do, you will have made a much more hospitable environment for native plants and done an important part in cleaning up our region.

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