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Image by Marcell Viragh

Free the Trees
from English Ivy

Rose Valley Free the Trees Weekend 2024

Saturday May 4
(rain-date Sunday May 5)

Volunteer ivy cutters should wear gardening gloves and long pants and sleeves to protect you

from ticks and poison ivy. Bring pruning shears, loppers, and a pruning saw if you have them.

  • Boy Scouts and their families meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Old Mill.

  • Longpoint residents meet at 10:30 a.m. at #21 South Longpoint Lane.

  • Pool members and other volunteers meet at 10:00 a.m. at the Pool parking lot.

English ivy (Hedera helix) is “an aggressive invader that threatens all vegetation levels of forested and open areas” according to the National Park Service. It is a serious threat to forests and backyard trees in Rose Valley, across Pennsylvania, and throughout temperate North America. (Adapted from

Why remove English Ivy?

  • Its dense growth smothers native plants, preventing sunlight from reaching leaves.

  • Ivy running up trees can cover branches, preventing leaf-out in the trees, eventually killing them. 

  • The weight of mature English ivy vines can make infested trees susceptible to blow-over during storms.

  • English ivy can transmit bacterial leaf scorch, which threatens native elms, oaks, and maples.

  • English ivy aggressively creeps beyond its intended space into neighboring yards, parks, and forests.

  • Mature vines climbing trees, walls or fences produce seeds, which birds disperse to other areas.
  • Ivy-covered slopes are susceptible to erosion. English ivy has shallow roots, and it prevents the growth of native plants with deeper roots that are more effective bank stabilizers. 

cutting English ivy.jpeg

How to clear ivy from a tree.

  • Cut the stems of English ivy all the way around the tree trunk. Clear a section around the trunk at least a foot wide. Ivy dangling on the tree above the cut will eventually dry up and fall down. Cut with pruners or loppers. Large vines may require a saw, but be careful not to damage the tree’s bark.

  • Pull English ivy from a 3 to 6-foot circle around the base of the tree, pulling out as many roots as you can. Freeing this area of ivy will stop it from climbing back up the trunk.

  • Best to dispose of English ivy in a compost pile or in the trash. It resprouts easily!

  • USEFUL TOOLS: pruners, loppers, a portable saw for 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 some of the vines were poison ivy.)

Some ways to prevent ivy waste from resprouting.

  • Deposit in a hot active compost pile

  • Chip or chop

  • Dry out in the sun on a driveway, porch or other non-soil surface.

  • Close up in a trash bag

  • DO NOT JUST TOSS ENGLISH IVY ONTO THE GROUND.  The cut vines will continue to grow and spread. 

  • Use of chemical herbicides: To kill vines that are too large to uproot, paint the cut stumps of ivy with glyphosate or triclopyr. This may kill vines’ roots, but only if applied in warm weather (50s or higher) immediately after cutting.   BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET ANY OF THE HERBICIDE ON THE TREE TRUNK OR ON NEARBY NATIVE PLANTS.

Replant with native groundcover

  • Perennial ground cover options include mayapple, foamflower, creeping phlox, wild blue phlox, white wood aster, bigleaf aster, blue wood aster, smooth aster, New York aster, 

  • Evergreen and semi-evergreens options include moss phlox, partridgeberry, checkerberry wintergreen (teaberry), bearberry, Allegheny spurge (native pachysandra), Aaron’s-beard, golden ragwort, Appalachian barren strawberry, green-and-gold, Christmas fern, marginal woodfern, blue wood sedge, Pennsylvania sedge, bristleleaf sedge, seersucker sedge, silver sedge, creeping sedge ‘Bunny Blue’, wild ginger. 

  • Virginia-creeper, a deciduous woody vine, is a good native groundcover for natural areas but it is also a climber and can be too vigorous for some 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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