Choking Hazard

Take Ivy Off Trees

ARMN volunteer removes English ivy off a suffocating tree. Photo by R. Olsen.

To the passing eye, English ivy seems like a lovely little green plant. But, it is actually a serious threat to the beautiful trees that give yards and neighborhoods shade and character.

Ivy strangles trees. It can accelerate tree rot by holding moisture close to the tree bark, while also stealing the trees’ nutrients and water. This aggressive little green plant can actually cause mature trees to fall down during storms by adding massive weight to overburdened branches.

“Our trees add financial value to our properties and quality to our lives. That is why we’ve invested so much time and money into landscaping, nurturing and maintaining our trees and gardens,” said Nora Palmatier, President of TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria. “The investment is worth it. Unfortunately, English ivy is a threat to that investment.”

Ivy is a threat to our trees, but it is a beatable one. Caroline Haynes, Past President of Arlington Regional Master Naturalists, recommends that all home and property owners protect their trees and landscaping investments by cutting ivy away from trees using these simple steps:

  1. Use garden clippers to cut all ivy vines at the bottom around the entire trunk of all infested trees.
  2. Create a cleared “life saver ring” around the tree by pulling all ivy vines from the ground for at least 2 feet in a circle around the tree.
  3. Leave the cut ivy vines on the tree. Do not pull it off because that could harm the tree. The cut ivy will die back and blow off the tree over the next year.

The TreeStewards and Master Naturalists have joined forces to rid Arlington of this invasive species. “TreeStewards and Master Naturalists often hear comments from well-meaning people about ivy’s beauty at information tables or while volunteering,” Haynes said. “Yet, our members know the real dangers of English ivy and other invasive plants. We hope our neighbors will follow this advice and protect their trees from a real choking hazard.”

If you would like to learn more about removing ivy from your trees or have questions about tree care, leave a comment at www.Tree or

Educational Resources:

Download a 2-page brochure to share.

Download a 1-page poster to share.

Download a PDF presentation to share.

Download a PowerPoint presentation to share

These materials were developed for TreeStewards and Arlington Regional Master Naturalists under a grant from the Tree Canopy Fund of Arlington, Virginia. These materials, created by Biodiversity Project of Chicago, may be adapted and distributed by anyone who wants to protect their trees.

For plants that are great alternatives to English Ivy, click here.

See all blog posts about the Choking Hazard Campaign.

3 thoughts on “Choking Hazard

  1. Sam Williams here. Have a Saturday meeting with County Commissioner, Susan Harden, to show her county owned property that has mature trees covered in ivy. Want to get her to see the choking factor and unleash a program to RIFOT, rid ivy from our trees. She is new to Commission, on Faculty at UNCC. I have told her about your activity. Would like to get her Staff person with your Staff person to exchange information, since we all know it is the “staff persons” who really get the work done. Might it be possible for you to mail me, 2910 Colony Road, Charlotte, NC 28211, a packet of information I could give to her Saturday? Hope so. This is a vital to Charlotte as it is to Arlington, and it is my belief this type of RIFOt should come ahead of all the tree planting programs. Save the mature before it is too late. Thanks, Sam, 704-376-0011. I am looking for that “point person” to tie your years of work to what is ahead, I hope, for Charlotte.

  2. To Sam Williams: I was so glad to see this article. We’ve moved close to Waxhaw but still have property in Charlotte. Good for you to do something to fix the stranglehold of those trees. We have a common wooded area behind our house that’s a mess. You’ve inspired me to do something about it — not sure how or what yet! Good luck!

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