Invasive Species Spotlight: English Ivy

DSC_0008It is often described as a lovely, evergreen groundcover. It is also a damaging, invasive species.

English ivy is widely planted, probably ever since ornamental plants were first imported to the United States. Because it is a ground-covering vine that smothers anything in its path, English ivy has been linked to the loss of plant diversity. Winter is the time of year that Hedera helix, or English ivy, makes its presence known. It stays green all year, which is probably one of the reasons why county residents like it in their yards or climbing their mailboxes. English ivy also stands out in natural areas during winter and often is the only green in the forest after native plants have died back for the year.

DSC_0010English ivy is especially dangerous to trees. Once the vine reaches branches, its extra weight can cause those branches to break, injuring the tree and opening an entry point for pathogens or fungus infections. Even if the tree can manage the extra weight from the vines, English ivy will eventually cover all the branches, shading leaves and leading to the tree’s death. English ivy growing on private property can spread to natural areas where it can grow unchecked.

DSCN1481Invasive species are widely considered to be the second-worst cause of ecosystem function degradation. The first is habitat loss, however, invasive species and habitat loss often go hand in hand. To learn more about invasive species removal in Fairfax County parks, visit the Invasive Management Area (IMA) website. IMA has 60 habitat restoration sites around the county, and the Park Authority is always looking for additional IMA volunteers.

Healthy ecosystems provide better air quality, better water quality, more opportunities for wildlife, and plant diversity. All of that means more opportunities for us to discover new things in our natural world. In Fairfax County, with less than 10% of the land protected in natural areas, it is even more important that our natural areas function as best they can.

English Ivy 2, Mail PostTake time to assess the area around your house. Can you spot English ivy creeping up trees or mailboxes, or did you plant English ivy in your yard? We have suggestions on our website for replacement plants.

Learn more about English ivy in this online field guide and more about invasive plants in this online discussion archive. Our colleagues in King County, Washington, also have an excellent web page with information about English ivy.

Remove English ivy and replant with a mix of native ground covers like ferns, spring beauty, Dutchman’s breeches and trillium. The native plants will be a much more interesting bunch — and not invasive.

This blog was compiled from Park Authority files and edited by Park Authority Ecologist Erin Stockschlaeder.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

2 thoughts on “Invasive Species Spotlight: English Ivy

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s