If you’ve ever doubted English ivy is dangerously invasive, the following photos will show you what a plague it can be in the native ecosystem. More importantly, I hope these pics will discourage you from planting Hedera helix in areas where it might escape cultivation, and perhaps even prompt you to do what you can towards its eradication in the wild.
Here is my husband, Tim, standing at the edge of the area we’ve been clearing, where you can distinctly see the “before” compared to the “after.”
These three photos of an infested area on a nearby property are all taken from the same spot.
What’s so bad about ivy gone wild?
Ivy can harbor bacterial leaf scorch (Xylella fastidiosa), a plant pathogen that is harmful to oaks, maples, and other natives.
As a groundcover, it forms a dense mat that displaces native plants.
It also creates a welcome habitat for problematic wildlife such as mosquitoes.
As a climber, it kills trees and shrubs by engulfing branches and blocking sun from their foliage.
Vines also keep bark damp, so it’s more susceptible to insect damage and other ills.
Finally, leaf-covered vines capture the wind like a sail and can topple trees during a storm.
Now for a bit of good news—here’s the progress we’ve made clearing the woodland behind our home.
Within days of our arrival Tim braved the jungle to sever the huge ivy vines climbing the tall hardwoods. In the two years since then, we’ve worked to remove not only ivy, but also Japanese knotweed, privet, and other alien invasive plants.
This spring, I’ll prowl the hillside each week to remove any ivy that reappears while keeping a close watch (with fingers crossed) for the return of natives. Yes, there is hope. Here’s a handsome native fern that popped up last summer in a (mostly) cleared area.
In time, after Mother Nature has had her chance to renew the landscape, I’ll plant additional native ferns and groundcovers to help keep the hillside steady. Likely candidates include Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), green and gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), galax (Galax urceolata), and Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens).