Hedera Helix

Webmaster Parish Council

Hedera Helix

An issue that has arisen recently is possibly not a Parish Council but one that does have an impact on our environment and the way we view our pleasant surroundings. I do not believe this is the normal topic of conversation over dinner or discussed at length down at the Woldingham Village Club but it is a subject for debate as we emerge from Winter hibernation.

The creeping issue is the common Ivy (Hedera helix) growing on trees and the resultant possible damage to the said tree.

I don’t profess to be Woldingham’s answer to Gardeners Question time on Radio 4 but I do have an opinion regarding the problem or rather non problem depending on how you view the issue.

Ivy is a native plant and is an excellent shelter and source of food for wildlife.

The definition of a weed is ‘a plant growing in the wrong place’. Therefore any plant that is located incorrectly can be categorised as a weed. However, we must be considerate as to what we believe is in the wrong place.

Firstly, I must state the following fact – Ivy will not kill a strong tree. Ivy will harm/kill a weak tree.

In a suburban garden the owner usually likes to keep the plot tidy – if he/she is lucky enough to have large trees then the removal of ivy might be considered necessary for cosmetic purposes, this is basically personal choice.

In a larger garden the visual impact might not be so great and personally I would advocate the removal of some ivy and the retention of a percentage for shelter and food for wildlife.

In a natural and managed wood the considerations are different.

Weak trees will succumb to the proliferation of Ivy but strong trees will not and a manicured approach is not correct. The natural eco system requires the balance that a native plant offers. Like the Oak Tree the Ivy supports a magnificent array of wildlife (birds, insects, plant’s, larvae, fungi etc..). and to remove all Ivy is not the correct approach.

So to summarise – Ivy will not kill a healthy tree. The approach of containment varies depending on the plot size and the environment. In my opinion, in the natural wooded world Ivy should be left to help sustain an abundance of wildlife. In a garden environment, size of plot and personal choice come into play. Are you a neat gardener or do you let nature have more of an impact on your method of gardening? That is the question.


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