Welcome to the first Weed of the Week post! I’m going to write a post about a noxious weed each week. There are many dangerous plants out there harming our ecosystems that people are not aware of. With my experience in habitat restoration and environmental work I have worked on many projects where noxious weeds are a huge problem, destroying the habitat for native plants and therefore disrupting the entire ecosystem. Many start in gardens and yards, so education everyone on these plants can help protect our environment.
Before we start on this weeks weed; Ivy, let’s discuss what a noxious weed is. A noxious weed is a non-native plant (typically) that can have a determination effect on the environment. Typically that effect starts with pushing out native plants. Removing native plants and replacing them with non-natives will effect other plants, insects, birds, amphibians, and up the food chain to mammals. Noxious weeds have many ways of taking habitat away from native plants, some release chemicals, some produce 1000’s of seeds that survive 10+ years in the soil, some physically overtake native plants and trees. The later is what Ivy does and that is where we will be starting.
Ivy is a good starting place because it is extremely common in home yards and gardens, It is simple to eradicate and it is powerful enough to kill large tree which makes it a real threat. It was brought across the pond in the nineteenth century by europeans, maybe to bring a slice of home to the America’s.
Many people have a very romantic view of ivy, crawling up stone walls in the idyllic English Garden. Maybe something you would see in a Thomas Kinkade painting. But in reality it is a very scary plant in the power it wields over our native plants, fences, trees, and structures. It moves quickly and it not kept under control it can climb up and strangle 100 year old Oak Trees. This type of massacre often occurs when Ivy has escaped from someone’s yard, grown into a green space near by which is not visited often and then one day you look out and see the entire trunk of a old tree is green, covered in the polished and efficient killer. This weed is a huge problem in some of the Pacific Northwest’s most picturesque parks including Forest Park in Portland, Or and Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. It causes huge amounts of damage and costing parks departments thousands of dollars. In some states, such as Oregon, it is illegal to sell Ivy and hopefully other states will follow suit soon.
It currently occurs in what seems like every state: “English ivy is nonnative to North America. In the eastern United States, it occurs from Massachusetts south throughout the mid-Atlantic and southeastern states to Florida and across the south-central states as far east as Texas. It occurs in some of the Great Lakes states including Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois [108,179], and in Ontario, Canada . One invasive plant publication indicated it also occurred in Wisconsin . In the West, English ivy occurs in all Pacific Coast states and British Columbia, in addition to Idaho, Utah, and Arizona [108,179]. It also occurs in Hawaii .” – USDA Forest Service.
So on to what you can do about it!
First, remove it from your yard, help your family and friends eradicate it as well. It is simple to remove, no chemicals needed! It can be a lot of physical labor depending on the size of patch you have. If it is ground cover I prefer starting at one end and scalp it for lack of a better term. Cut the roots aways from the above ground vines and begin rolling it back. Eventually you can just pull and roll. You may need to stop every 5-10ft and cut it off to start a new roll, to keep the size manageable. This is super simple, just plan for it to take some time and sweat!
If it is chocking a tree it is of the most importance to get it off the tree. The simplest way is to cut ALL the vines growing up the tree a few feet up from the ground. I like to cut is at about 4ft, a height that is simple for me. Pull the vines off the tree between the ground and where you made your cuts. Leave the rest of the vines from the cuts up. Pulling down these vines can be dangerous for you and very difficult. Once you have removed their main supple of nutrients and water these vines will dry up and die. If you want to remove these for aesthetic reasons I recommend waiting until they are dried up and dead.
Consult your local Weed Board for more information on removal and eradication specific to your area.
You can volunteer and help pull Ivy! Yes, there are many opportunities in locations with endemic Ivy populations. One of the colleges I went to had ivy pulls on campus once a week. Check in with your local conservation districts, soil and water districts, government agencies, and environmental non-profits. If you know a Eagle Scout recommend they host an ivy pull, it is a great project! Do a quick Google search for Ivy and the name of your town or county, it should being up many resources if Ivy is a noxious weed in your area.
Want to read more? Check out this great article from Oregon State University.
Alternatives to Ivy:
There are many alternatives to planting ivy depending on what you are looking for. An evergreen plant? Shade tolerant? Ground cover? Depending on where you live here are some options, please consult your local plant authority (Master Gardener Clubs, University Extension offices etc.) to make sure these options are native in you area as well.
Kinnikinnick: Evergreen, low ground cover, fast growing, grows well in poor rocky soil
Salal: Evergreen, grows well in; sun, shade, moist or dry soil
Photo from http://www.nwplants.com/
Fringecup: Ground cover, spreads quickly, likes moist soil