Why we remove ivy

Why do we remove ivy? Since 2004, volunteers have freed over 750 trees of English ivy! We have spent hours of this work, because English ivy, or Hedera helix, is "an a aggressive invader that threatens all vegetation levels of forested and open areas" according to the National Park Service. It is a serious threat to the forests in the Ardens, in Delaware and throughout the country.

According to former Delaware State Forester Brian Hall, ivy also is a “fire ladder” and a serious fire hazard to us in the Ardens. In a fire situation, fire can rip along ivy vines, and can travel up ivy-covered trees and set the tree on fire from the top. This is just another of many reasons below to cut ivy from trees, and remove it as a ground cover where possible.

  1. Its dense growth smothers native plants, preventing sunlight from reaching leaves.
  2. Ivy running up trees can cover branches, preventing leaf-out in trees, eventually killing them.
  3. The weight of mature ivy vines can make infested trees susceptible to blow-over during storms
  4. Ivy can transmit bacterial leaf scorch, which threatens native elms, oaks and maples.
  5. English ivy aggressively creeps beyond its intended space into neighboring yards, parks and forests.
  6. Mature vines live for years, and develope seeds which birds disperse to other areas (reproductive ivy leaves are more heart-shaped).
  7. Ivy is not even a good bank stabilizer: because its roots are shallow, and because it out-competes better deeper-rooted bank stabilizers, ivy-covered slopes erode significantly.
  8. According to Oregon's experience, ivy's thick mat-like roots are also good hide-outs for rodents and hold undetected water ponds ideal for breeding mosquitos.



  1. Cut a circle of English ivy around the tree trunk. Free a 12-inch tall section completely around the trunk. Ivy dangling on the tree will eventually dry up and fall down. Cut with pruners and/or lopers. Large vines may require a saw.
  2. Pull ivy from a 3-6 foot circle around the tree root, pulling as many roots as you can. Freeing this area of ivy will stop it from climbing back up the trunk.
  3. Cautiously dispose of the ivy. It resprouts easily!
  4. USEFUL TOOLS: pruners, loppers, a portable saw for larger thick vines, a forked tool to pull multiple vines from the ground, elbow grease and gloved hands! (Afterwards, wash gloves in hot water just in case a few of the vines were poison ivy.)


  1. Twist it completely to break the cellulose bond
  2. Chip or chop
  3. Dry out in the sun on top of a rock
  4. Close up in a bag for several weeks,
  5. Deposit in a hot active compost pile.
  6. Whatever you do, monitor the debris to prevent resprouting. DO NOT JUST TOSS IVY ONTO THE GROUND in the woods or your garden without doing the above! IT WILL CONTINUE TO GROW AND SPREAD!

If chemicals are used, one can "paint" the cut side of the vine still in the ground with Round-up (or generic or other glycophosphate). If applied very soon after cutting, and the weather is in the 50s or higher, this may kill the rest of the vine, especially for large vines that are difficult to pull up.

Suggestions include: wild ginger, mayapple, partridge-berry, foamflower, creeping phlox, wintergreen, Allegheny (or native) pachysandra, bearberry, asters, and Christmas fern (evergreen). Also, Virginia creeper is a good native vine for natural areas but can be too vigorous for gardens.

If you pull ivy from wooded areas where it is just creeping in, native plants and seeds already in the woods should grow to fill in the cleared spaces (but watch out for other invasive plants).

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