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Friday August 19th

English ivy poses threat to tree health, but these volunteers are pushing back

Across Orange County, English Ivy is growing rapidly on trees. This type of ivy is an invasive species and the Town of Hillsborough is looking for people to help remove it.
Buy Photos Across Orange County, English Ivy is growing rapidly on trees. This type of ivy is an invasive species and the Town of Hillsborough is looking for people to help remove it.

Trees in the Orange County area are suffering from an invasive species, and volunteers are trying to mitigate the damage being done.

Volunteers Tim Logue and Liz Waters from the Hillsborough Tree Board and former member Frances Harris have been working to remove English ivy from trees in the Chapel Hill and Hillsborough areas. English ivy is one of several invasive species that diligent gardeners should eradicate or control, Logue said.

Aside from not being native to the United States, English ivy has a tendency to climb trees, killing the foliage and working its way into the tree bark. Ivy also adds weight to trees, making them more susceptible to storm damage. This can lead to a harboring of moisture, which promotes tree rot. 

“Ivy doesn’t fruit when it’s on the ground, but once it starts climbing trees, it fruits and the birds will eat the fruit," Logue said. "Their droppings will replant it in wild areas, so then ivy can take over an entire forest or parts of the forest.” 

The ivy is a big problem in Hillsborough, Stephanie Trueblood, the Town's public space and sustainability manager, said in an email. It covers many of the forests, wooded areas, public and private property. 

English ivy can even be found on parts of campus students navigate daily. 

“If you drive down East Franklin to South Estes, you see it on either side of the road, climbing trees,” Logue said. 

Two sites that are overgrown with the ivy include the Hillsborough Town Hall and the Old Town Cemetery, Trueblood said in the email.

"Volunteer numbers differ from year to year, but right now, several Tree Board members and their friends and family are removing ivy regularly at the Hillsborough Town Hall and the Old Town Cemetery, two sites that are particularly bad," she said in an email.

Wooded neighborhoods, especially, are prey to ivy, which starts as ground cover and drips from the roots of trees, Logue said.

This fall, the Tree Board volunteers will tackle the ivy along the Riverwalk Greenway, according to a press release from the Town of Hillsborough.

“You can hear the tree breathe a sigh of relief as you uncover it,” Harris said in the press release. “It’s satisfying to remove the ivy and see the tree’s root flare at the ground.”

The Town's YouTube channel features an instructional video on how to remove English ivy from trees.

In the four-minute video, Logue and Harris demonstrate simple methods for ivy removal and list some tools handy for the job, including hand pruners, loppers, pruning saws, screwdrivers and shovels. 

Cut ivy vines may reroot if left on the ground. In the video, Harris said it's important to properly dispose of the removed ivy. This can be done by creating what’s called an “ivy-free zone” around the base of the infected tree by digging up roots about 2 feet out. The area would need to be monitored consistently for returning ivy.

Because of the pandemic, the Town of Hillsborough has been reluctant to assign too many volunteer workdays for the removal of ivy, Logue said. 

The Tree Board hopes to eventually recruit more volunteers to help with the heavily infested areas so Chapel Hill and Hillsborough can go back to housing happy, healthy trees, Logue said.

Logue’s interest in invasive species led him to help establish an invasive removal program with the Chapel Hill Public Library at Pritchard Park. The goal of this program is to “promote greater diversity of native plants and animals, beautify the park and create a healthier ecosystem for visitors to enjoy,” according to the library's website. 

The program will host a volunteer workday on Sept. 25 to tackle different sections of the park.


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