Middleburg's Aggressive Invader - English Ivy

Most people admire English Ivy because it stays green all year and can cover up a lot of things, so it appears harmless. BUT............ English Ivy is slowly killing our trees, not only in Town, but throughout our entire community. With the help of Estee LaClare and Mark Metzger, the Town’s Streetscape Committee is launching a new program to better inform us all that English Ivy is Middleburg's Aggressive Invader and action needs to be taken.

We hope the following information will help everyone to better understand the English Ivy issue as well as offer simple solutions for removal. The Streetscape Committee meets the second Thursday of each month at the Town Office at 8:30 AM and everyone is welcome. So, if you have ivy/tree/shrub questions or issues, please come to the meetings as we are here to help you.


English Ivy (Hedera Helix L.) was introduced to America by European colonists back in 1727. It is an evergreen climbing vine that attaches to the bark of trees, brickwork as well as other surfaces by way of small rootlike structures which secrete a sticky substance that helps the vines hold onto different surfaces. It is an aggressive invader and has made the State of Virginia’s Invasive Plant Species List. While the listing only puts it at a medium level of invasiveness, based upon its threat to natural communities and native species, it threatens all levels of vegetation and grows along the ground as well as in the forest canopy. The ivy can displace native plant species, reduce wildlife habitat, and completely alter ecosystems. English Ivy vines, when they climb up tree trunks, spread out and engulf the tree canopy blocking out sunlight and impeding photosynthesis. The decline of the tree can take many years to occur, and the weight of the vines can make the tree susceptible to blowing over in storms. Additionally, the vines can potentially pass along harmful plant pathogens.

Elimination and Prevention

1. Manual, mechanical, and chemical control methods are all effective in removing and eliminating English Ivy. Oftentimes, it is a combination of methods that achieve the most success and may reduce potential impacts to native plants, animals, and people.

2. Individual vines can easily be removed from moist soil by hand. The vines can also be uprooted using landscaping tools (rake, pruning snips/clippers, cutting tools, and mowing).

3. If the tree is encircled/engulfed in ivy, cut the vines around the base of the tree, being careful to not cut the tree itself. Using the same technique, cut another circle around the tree at around shoulder level, which will then severe the ivy in two locations and its flow of nutrients.

4. Monitor the area for new growth and remove ivy if it begins to come back.

5. Herbicides should be used as an alternative or last resort when attempting to eliminate English Ivy. English Ivy’s leaves contain a waxy barrier that is difficult for products to infiltrate. It is exceedingly difficult to kill the ivy with herbicides alone and can require a combination of manual, mechanical, and chemical control methods for successful elimination.

Recipe for Environmentally Safe Weed Killer

Only three ingredients are needed for an environmentally safe product that can be applied to English Ivy to eliminate it: Vinegar, Dish Soap, and Salt. For one batch of weed killer, you will need a gallon container of white vinegar, ¼ cup of dish soap, and two cups of Epsom or regular salt. Instructions for mixing these ingredients:

1. Pour the salt into your container.

2. Add the vinegar.

3. Shake the salt and vinegar together. Allow to dissolve.

4. Add the dish soap.

5. Combine all ingredients.

6. Pour into a spray bottle of your choosing.

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