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Ivy: A tree's worst enemy

Bernedine Lund, together with fellow Rainier Audubon Society members, has been removing English Ivy from trees at Dash Point State Park. Here she shows how the ivy covers a tree from top to bottom. - Aileen Charleston/The Mirror
Bernedine Lund, together with fellow Rainier Audubon Society members, has been removing English Ivy from trees at Dash Point State Park. Here she shows how the ivy covers a tree from top to bottom.
— image credit: Aileen Charleston/The Mirror

By AILEEN CHARLESTON, The Mirror

Bothered by the constant sight of trees filled with English Ivy plants seen along Interstate 5 during her daily commute from Federal Way to Seattle, Bernedine Lund decided to take action.

As a member of the Rainier Audubon Society, Lund has always been an advocate of preserving wildlife — particularly when it involves plants.

Lund’s usual walks around Dash Point State Park made her notice an overwhelming sight of English Ivy spreading through the park’s trees in an almost epidemic manner.

“It bothered me to see so many people coming to Dash Point from various parts of Washington and have them think this was normal,” she said. “Around Federal Way, it’s just everywhere.”

English Ivy — or Hedera helix — is a climbing vine that is native to southwest Asia and most parts of Europe. Its use has commonly been strictly ornamental and, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, it’s considered an invasive species due to its rapid ability to climb on trees, roadside plantings, parking lots, buildings, fences and other vertical surfaces.

Sometimes English Ivy, as it is commonly known in North America, can grow up to be 30 meters high if not controlled.

“When most people see ivy, they actually think it’s part of the tree, and they can’t believe how big it can grow,” Lund said.

“Ivy kills trees by suffocating them, and can also add about 2,000 pounds to a tree, making it more vulnerable to blow up with the wind,” she said.

Ivy represents danger for any tree because it competes for water and nutrients.

The weed also blocks sunlight, shades out plants, can cause skin irritations and can even contribute to erosion in some cases. Ivy is also known to be a provider of hiding places for rats and other vermin.

English Ivy is even considered a noxious weed by the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board.

Lund, together with other members of the Rainier Audubon Society, have committed every first Saturday of the month, since December of last year, to remove the ivy from the ground and trees throughout different areas of Dash Point State Park.

So far, the group has been successful in removing almost entirely the ivy affecting the upper and lower campground areas of the park.

“We worked for a total of 25 hours through the month of February on this project,” Lund said.

Different groups throughout King County, such as EarthCorps, Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation, and the South Woods Preservation Group, to name a few, also dedicate their time to removing ivy from local parks on a monthly basis.

“My main goal is to get people to recognize ivy and possibly contribute by getting rid of it in their own yards and neighborhoods,” Lund said.

Contact Aileen Charleston: acharleston@fedwaymirror.com.

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For more information on English Ivy, its removal and other planting alternatives, visit

http://ivyout.org/index.html or e-mail philandbernedine2002@yahoo.com

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