Tree Killers: English Ivy

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  • Common English name: English Ivy
  • Other names: European ivy
  • Latin (scientific) name: Hedera helix

Threat type

150x150 plants

History in Canada

  • introduced as an ornamental from Europe
  • still widely available from nurseries
  • established in southern Ontario and southern British Columbia


  • evergreen climbing vine with waxy, dark green, white-veined leaves
  • belongs to the Ginseng family
  • attaches to trees by sticky rootlets that develop along the stem
  • vine stems can be up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter and can climb to 30 metres (100 ft) in the canopy
  • reproduces by seeds contained in black berry-like fruits
  • birds eat the berries and are responsible for long-distance spread of English Ivy since the seeds within the fruit pass through the bird without damage
  • can reproduce vegetatively from broken or cut vines that root easily
  • leaves contain a toxin which prevents most browsing
  • prefers open woods

Impact on Trees

  • can grow in dense patches in open woodland, forest openings, and forest edges
  • can form a thick, evergreen, ground cover that suppresses native tree seedlings
  • can engulf and kill lower branches of trees due to heavy shade
  • the extra weight of the vines and evergreen leaves causes the host tree to be much more susceptible to blow down from winds or heavy rain, snow, or ice
  • may harbor a plant disease called Bacterial Leaf Scorch (Xylella fastidiosa), that harms elms, oaks, and maples

What can be done to control this tree killer?

  • cutting stems followed by herbicide application to the cut stems
  • herbicide application to the entire vine
  • several years of control may be needed since the seeds are unaffected by the above methods and seedlings can recolonize an area

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