Winter Is The Perfect Time To Kill English Ivy

The English Invader

What many Long Islanders are coming to realize is that our trees are being destroyed by English Ivy. The reason it’s here at all is that we were mimicking the British. A proper manse has ivy, lawn, privet, so that became the aesthetic here in suburban form.

With the leaves now fallen, we can see the thousands upon thousands of trees all along our streets in the process of dying. The ivy shades out the trees, weighs down their branches, and eats through the bark and renders the trees susceptible to funguses.

Some people will claim that the English Ivy now engulfing their trees is pretty. However once one understands that this is an invasive plant, that the birds eat the berries from it and spread it everywhere, that English Ivy is the preferred ground cover for the white footed mouse, a major carrier of Lyme disease ticks, and that it will eventually kill the tree, the ivy stops looking so elegant.

The Long Island Conservancy has been very busy removing English Ivy. There is just so much, though. We need your help. Here is how you kill English Ivy:

1. First, wear gloves and long sleeves. Just common sense.

2. Girdle the ivy all along the trunk using pruning sheers, a lopper or an electric saw depending on how thick the vines are. That will starve out any ivy growing above where you cut. The fun part is watching it wither over the months, revealing the tree underneath.

3. Whatever you do, DO NOT rip at the vines. That will damage the bark and invite disease.

4. Clear away whatever English Ivy ground cover there is within 6 feet of the tree so it won’t grow back so easily.

5. Prepare for return trips. As with wisteria, oriental bittersweet, porcelainberry and bamboo, so long as there are roots extant, you will still have a problem.

Eradicating all these invasive plants and returning the natives on Long Island has to be thought as the work of a generation. But you can save a tree today, and save other trees elsewhere that would have been killed by English Ivy that grew from a berry from that vine.


  1. I have been trying to alert Historical Societies and Civic Associations about the spread of the Hedera helix infestation spreading across Long Island and have met with little success . The north shore of Long Island is being ravaged by the English Ivy with little or no awareness. I am seeing thousands of old growth ( 175 yr+) oaks dying everywhere one looks.
    A flyer I produced with a method for killing the vine after cutting using a few inches of duct tape and a few table spoons of table salt was published a civic association and a Historical Society. I am meeting with a Suffolk County Legislator to discuss this issue next week with the thought of a county wide educational campaign. I am having some bumper stickers made with the slogan. “ Save an Old Tree, Cut the Ivy” . If you have any thoughts on this situation I would appreciate your help.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *