A silent threat to the trees


English ivy threatens to prematurely kill dozens of trees in Point Roberts. It’s slowly degrading the landscape you enjoy while robbing your community of many other tree benefits. Learn how you can stop its spread.

People notice sudden human-caused tree losses from new development, logging, arborists, etc. especially when it’s near their home or is otherwise glaringly in view.

What people often don’t notice is the slow, insidious loss of mature trees due to invasive, tree-climbing vines. I’ll focus on one here: English ivy. Although Atlantic/Boston ivy is in the Pacific Northwest now, and four of 60+ English ivy cultivars are the most aggressive, for simplicity I’ll call it all “English ivy.”

English ivy is not native to the Pacific Northwest, but thrives in our temperate region, especially along the edges of parks, trails, open spaces, and roads.

The vines can grow up to six feet per year and opportunistically climb upward, seeking more sun in any way they can. That includes climbing any tree in its path.

Once the ivy reaches the tree’s canopy in a few years (speed depends on sun exposure, etc.) the tree’s own leaves must compete for sun and moisture. Eventually the weakened tree gains a dense, top-heavy upper canopy. The next strong windstorm (which are more common now due to climate change) will likely snap off the top of the tree, leaving a dead snag. As a dead snag, it begins to emit rather than capture carbon from the atmosphere and it will stop providing most other benefits that trees normally provide.

This collective destruction is enormous. Thousands of mature healthy trees in Whatcom County are threatened by English ivy. Virtually all will die prematurely in a handful of years. And on the ground, ivy dominates and smothers all understory plants.

For decades English ivy has been sold and promoted by nurseries and landscapers as a quick, easy ornamental groundcover solution. Why? Because it’s so aggressive!

And now it has escaped our gardens and has no limits. Robins and other birds snack on the ivy’s small black berries, then spread those in droppings often miles away.

WMTP’s Ivy Removal Progress

The good news is that you can significantly reduce the English ivy infestation in Point Roberts. Whatcom Million Trees Project is supporting such efforts as part of our three-year goal to save at least 80 percent of all ivy-threatened trees in Whatcom County.

Our English ivy removal efforts include:

• English Ivy mapping – to date, we’ve mapped 2,700+ ivy-affected trees to better plan and track our progress. Once you have “ivy eyes” you see it everywhere!

• Volunteer work parties – so far we’ve cleared – and thus protected – more than 1,400 of the above trees. It’s a fun, direct, satisfying climate action work that everyone can participate in.

• How-to removal guide – check out our one-page step-by-step guide you can download and print to see how to remove ivy from trees safely and easily.

• Community education – we’ve been presenting at Whatcom County branch libraries about ivy, including a July talk at the Point Roberts’ Library.

• Local nursery advocacy – we’re persuading nurseries in Whatcom County – retail and wholesale – to stop selling English ivy. This is a root cause of the problem.

• Statewide nursery no-sell list – Our online petition will help us early next year to have four English ivy cultivars (the worst aggressors) added to the Statewide Nursery Prohibited Plants List that all nurseries must follow. Oregon has already taken that step.

You can learn more about all the above at whatcommilliontrees.org/tree-projects/tree-protection/english-ivy.

What can you do right now to help?

1) Know of ivy-burdened trees near you? Please email us at info@whatcommilliontrees.org. Mention the approximate quantity of trees affected and location (street address or map pin).

2) Connect to the Point Roberts Garden Club for support in individual or small group ivy removal efforts in Point Roberts.

3) Please sign our statewide ivy no-sell petition at actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-selling-english-ivy-in-washington. Your info will be obscured to protect your privacy. No need to be a registered voter or over 18. We’re hoping for thousands of signatures by February 2024. Please help and spread the word!

There’s no need to feel powerless to stop the immense loss of mature trees in Whatcom County. Together, we can systematically turn the tide of English ivy and other tree-climbing invasives ourselves, thereby improving the health and climate resiliency of our entire region.

Solving the ivy problem is only one of Whatcom Million Trees Project many initiatives to protect local trees. To learn more, visit us today at whatcommilliontrees.org. Thanks!


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