English ivy: what a creep!

With long sprawling vines and rootlets that exude a glue-like substance, English ivy has the power to affect a forest from top to bottom.

Name: English Ivy (Hedera helix)

How it spreads: English ivy’s long vines send out roots and nodes, allowing it to crawl along a forest floor and up into the forest canopy

Difficulty to remove: 4 out of 10

English ivy is considered a Class C Noxious Weed in Washington state—property owners aren’t required to control the species but are strongly encouraged to remove it and manage its spread. Managing the spread of this invasive can be tricky since its forte is being able to spread over anything in its path: from the tall Douglas fir next to your house to your house itself!

Quick and steady

English ivy can spread like a thick mat along the forest floor, choking out native ferns, wildflowers and tree seedlings along the way. Water often runs directly under these mats, which can cause severe erosion problems, especially on slopes. With its vining abilities, English ivy can crawl from the forest floor up into the forest canopy by attaching its nodes and rootlets to tree trunks. As ivy grows up a tree, the tree’s “hazard” risk increases: its bark becomes more susceptible to disease and rot; its branches have reduced access to light—affecting the tree’s overall health; and its canopy becomes weighed down by the ivy, causing for potential blow down and an overall loss of habitat.

How do I remove this creep?

English ivy can easily be controlled through basic manual removal, meaning most anyone is capable of removing it on their own. In fact, here at Forterra we rely on the power of community members to help us to remove this invasive from our urban forests and natural areas through volunteer events.

With sturdy stems, shallow roots, and no thorns, this is an ideal invasive to remove by hand-pulling, combined with loosening surrounding soils with a shovel or other gardening tool. When removing ivy from a tree, cut the vines surrounding the trunk at chest height and pull the vines off of the trunk and out of the ground at their roots. When mature, ivy can have vines that are very thick and woody, so sometimes a handsaw will be needed. The upper vines that are left will dry out and die as long as they are no longer rooted in the ground.

Pulling up English Ivy

Spread awareness, not invasives

The first step to take before having to dig in and get your hands dirty is to simply spread awareness of English ivy, especially to friends and neighbors who may have this invasive nicely manicured in their yard at home. Many native alternatives exist that provide a similar aesthetic but don’t run the risk of creeping its way toward choking out the forests.

  • Nicole Marcotte

    Nicole comes to us from the Northeast, where she graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies from St. Michael’s College in Vermont. She made the jump to Seattle to serve as a 2014 AmeriCorps member with EarthCorps. After a year of grubbing immense amounts of blackberry, spraying knotweed along the Cedar River, maintaining trails in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and planting plenty of native species, she realized that her true passions lie in habitat conservation and restoration. This newfound passion led her Forterra. If she’s not out frolicking through alpine meadows in her free time, you can find her in Washington Park Arboretum where she likes to create botanical-artwork from fallen flowers and foliage.