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Invasive, Exotic Plants of the Southeast


English Ivy

English Ivy

Common Name: English Ivy

Scientific Name: Hedera helix

Identification: English Ivy is an evergreen woody vine.  The vine will climb or form dense ground cover.  The leaves are alternate and are heart-shaped with pointed lobes in young plants and broadly lanceolate in mature plants.  The light gray vine may reach a thickness of 10 inches in diameter and may be bumpy and gnarly.  Small greenish-yellow flowers appear in June to October.  Clusters of round drupes ripen to dark blue from October to May.

Ecology: English Ivy prefers open forests but is adaptable to many habitats and moisture conditions.  English Ivy serves as a reservoir for bacterial leaf scorch that infects maples, oaks, and elms.  This invasive vine colonizes by vine growth and seeds that are spread by birds.  Very few species of wildlife use English Ivy because it is mildly toxic.

Plant Control: Mature stands of ivy can be difficult to control. Hand-pulling or clipping alone can be futile as mature ivy grows so aggressively. In the home landscape, a combination of mechanical and chemical methods will usually be necessary. You can get started during the winter months by hand-pulling as much of the vines as possible (without worrying about snakes or bee stings). You will notice the vines usually radiate out from a central clump or node; trace back to the nodes, cut the vines off, and bag the vines in large heavy duty garbage bags as you go. You may be able to use a weed-eater to buzz the ivy back down to the nodes and then rake the refuse up and bag it. Use clippers to sever any vines that have attached themselves to tree trunks. Allow the ivy to re-sprout during the growing season, then spot-spray the ground level foliage at central nodes with a 5% solution of glyphosate with surfactant.  If nodes continue to re-sprout, try using a 10% solution or painting the entire node with undiluted glyphosate concentrate (53.8% preferable). If mechanical vine control prior to herbicide application is impractical, you can spray the stand with a 5% glyphosate and surfactant solution in late summer, but note that non-target plants may be at higher risk with this method. Increase solution strength if necessary and re-treat as needed for complete control.
Alternative Native Species: Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Climbing Hydrangea (Decumaria barbara)

When using herbicides remember to follow label-recommendations.  Any mention of trade, products, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by North Carolina State University.

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