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Mr. Smarty Plants - Elimination of non-native English ivy in Maryland

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Wednesday - March 11, 2009

From: Linthicum Heights, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives, Problem Plants
Title: Elimination of non-native English ivy in Maryland
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have Old English Ivy sprouting up throughout my side yard. What can I do to get rid of it? Would putting lime down help or Crabgrass control? What would you suggest and the easier the better as I am disabled.

ANSWER:

Hedera helix, English Ivy is native to Africa, Asia and Europe and therefore out of our range of expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It is, however, considered a noxious weed and invasive in 18 states and the District of Columbia, including Maryland. Introduced invasives are very much a concern of ours, and we will try to help you find a way to control it in your yard.

This Plant Conservation Alliance website Least Wanted-English Ivy details how it grows, climbing masonry and trees with equal ease, spreading both by seeds and underground roots, and spread by birds. Of course, the primary and most environmentally safe way to eliminate an intruder is to pull it out, roots and all, and keep doing that until the plant is starved out. We realize you probably cannot follow that course; however, we don't think broadcasting anything, including lime and crabgrass killer, is wise. The reason is, anything sprayed or broadcast can kill or damage other plants besides those you are trying to get rid of, and add a chemical presence to your environment that is not beneficial. 

The course of action we want to recommend may still require your recruiting some help, but is the least dangerous to the environment. Equipment you will need: a broad-leaf herbicide, of which there are a great many on the market, in liquid, not spray form, some small disposable foam paintbrushes, and a good clipper or pruner, that will cut through the plant stems very close to the ground. When you have cut the stem as near to the soil surface and the root as possible, immediately paint the cut stem surface with the herbicide. This needs to be done within 5 minutes, as the plant will quickly try to seal off the cut surface. You want to get the herbicide into the living root, where it will hopefully spread through the root system. This will need to be repeated wherever you can find stems emerging from roots in the ground for maximum efficiency. Be careful not to splash or spill the herbicide on the ground, because you don't want to contaminate the soil for some future plant. Any of the above-ground tendrils you can pull up or pick up and discard, do so, as this will make it easier to locate (and eliminate) any remaining viable roots. If any of the ivy is climbing trees, trim the roots at the base of the tree, treat them, and then cut the stems above to hasten their dying and being removed from the trunk of the tree. Try to keep the herbicide away from the trunk of the tree. 

This time of year, the English ivy will be be green, and Toxicodendron radicans (eastern poison ivy), which may be cohabiting with it, will still be bare of leaves, so you can at least distinguish the two. Be cautious to avoid direct contact with the poison ivy, and try to eliminate it the same way as the Hedera helix.

Pictures of English Ivy 


Toxicodendron radicans

Toxicodendron radicans

 

 

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