There is a time for everything, including a time for removing invasive plants. Spring and early summer are good times to remove invasives like Japanese stiltgrass and garlic mustard, before they produce seeds and die back for the year. Late fall and early winter can be convenient times of the year to remove evergreen vines like English Ivy and Wintercreeper. These vines are easily visible when other plants near them drop leaves or die back. Native plants like American holly and Christmas fern are better alternatives for evergreen foliage through the winter.
Invasive plants are not just nonnative; they are invasive because they spread out of control and disrupt ecosystems. The adaptations that allow them to spread also make them difficult to remove. They produce many seeds that persist in the soil for years, or if cut down they regrow from roots left in the ground.
The following are tips for removing English ivy and wintercreeper.
English ivy is an invasive vine. It grows over the ground and climbs trees. The ivy weakens and kills trees by blocking tree leaves from sunlight and by harboring bacteria. Weakened trees can fall in storms from the weight of the ivy. Ivy also provides damp breeding grounds for mosquitos and dense groundcover for rodents.
To control ivy growing up trees, cut the stems of the vine around the trunk of the tree, and then cut the stems again about a foot higher or lower. The cut vines do not need to be pulled off the tree. The roots may be pulled up or cut to the ground when they regrow. Rake ivy that is growing on the ground, and cut the stems close to the ground.
Like English ivy, wintercreeper is a vine that covers the ground and grows up trees. Its evergreen leaves cause wintercreeper to stand out in winter. Wintercreeper should be cut and pulled like English ivy.
Periwinkle and Japanese honeysuckle are semi-evergreen invasive vines that are similar in appearance to wintercreeper and may also be removed through pulling or repeated cutting.
Dispose of invasive plants in plastic bags with the regular trash. Prevent spreading invasive plants. Do not mix invasive plants with yard waste or dump it in the woods.
Native plants are those that have long been growing in an area without being brought there by people. Local wildlife is adapted to eating native plants. You can help expand wildlife habitat by planting native plants in your yard.
Here are some native plants that retain color in the winter.
American holly has broad evergreen leaves, and the female trees bear red berries in winter. The trees are deer resistant and are a source of winter food for birds.
Winterberry is a deciduous native holly. While it sheds leaves in the fall, it retains red berries on its branches through the winter. The bright berries on bare branches provide visual interest and food for birds. Both American Holly and Winterberry Holly have male and female shrubs. Only female shrubs will produce berries, but a male shrub nearby is necessary for pollination.
Christmas fern is a native, evergreen fern that can be planted as groundcover in shady areas. Its pinnae, or little leaflike segments, are shaped like holiday stockings with a long toes and small heels.
Partridgeberry forms a delicate groundcover under trees. It provides winter color with evergreen leaves and red berries. White flowers bloom in summer.
Have you removed invasive plants or planted native plants in your yard? Record your green actions on the Watch the Green Grow map at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/nature-history/watch-green-grow.
Author Tami Sheiffer is the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Watch the Green Grow Coordinator.