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Let’s Get the English Ivy Off Our Trees

English ivy growing in trees between the “Mother and Child” statue and the Granite Building in Roosevelt Center.


Hey, Greenbelters! Now, before the leaves are out it’s pretty easy to spot English ivy growing in trees, where it can damage them. And a lesser-known harm is from the berries iti produces after it’s grown vertically and matures – berries that are spread all over the place by birds. So it’s a proven invasive, at least in Maryland. And here’s more about the damage it does.

English ivy smothering trees in another very public spot, across the street from Roosevelt Center.

And on Southway, next to the Carroll gas station and behind the directional signs is a massive infestation of the stuff! A Greenbelter told me she was embarrassed by such a public display of harm to trees at the entrance to our tree-proud city, and I agree.

Greenbelt-Beltsville Garden Club Takes Action!

From left: Melissa Mackey, Ed James and Bruce Bauman

You may have heard that the venerable Beltsville Garden Club is now the Greenbelt-Beltsville Garden Club, with official status granted by the City of Greenbelt. Its in-person meetings are held at Greenbelt’s Youth Center, its popular spring plant sale is in the Roosevelt Center parking lot, and all the current officers live here.

So it’s no surprise that this botanic scourge in the middle of Old Greenbelt was noticed by club president Melissa Mackey, who called for volunteers to help free the trees in our beloved public square from this horrible plant. Brian Townsend at Public Works gave the project his okay, and the date was set.

Responding last Sunday – a beautiful day! – were Greenbelters Melissa Mackey, Evelyn Crellin, Annie Shaw, Lesley Kash, Ed James and I, plus Beltsville residents Bruce Bauman and Emily Bair.

How to Safely Remove English Ivy from Trees

As recommended by arborists everywhere (like this one), it’s best to remove some lower portion of ivy stems, without trying to pull it down from the trees, which can damage the bark. In the photo above, everything above this cut will gradually die and fall down – safely – over the next year or so.

This video by some Virginia Master Gardeners shows how to do it, and more on why it’s so important.

Here’s Melissa holding a big chunk of ivy stem, with Bruce folding his hand saw. We also used loppers, hand pruners, knives and regular screwdrivers (for wedging under and removing stems after they’ve been cut through).

Here you can spot some berries, about 6 feet off the ground.
Our work is far from done, as there’s still ivy on the ground that will eventually creep back up the trees. But just killing the ivy that’s on trees now is SO impactful, and totally do-able.
If you’re interested in joining the club in its English-ivy-conquering work sessions, leave a comment below.

Got English Ivy in YOUR Yard or Common Area

There’s lots more English ivy in private yards in Greenbelt and in public spots like GHI’s common areas, so there’s no shortage of places to make a difference. As proven with the Greenbelt-Beltsville Garden Club, it’s a fun and productive group project. Or a neighborhood project, right? Really, any time of the year is a good time to do it.
Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog weekly at GardenRant.com.

2 Responses

  1. Sarah Rusk
    | Reply

    I would be more than happy to help with future ivy removal projects.

  2. Judith Rubinstein
    | Reply

    I would like to be informed of the next ivy removal activity.

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