English Ivy Kills Trees??


If you are anything like me, you drive circles around metro-Atlanta and have seen these signs posted,

“English Ivy Kills Trees”, but a question I am often asked is, “Does ivy actually “kill” trees?”  Like most successful marketing, this sign is direct and makes a statement but there is some half truth to it.   English ivy and similar vines like Wisteria and Kudzu are aggressive, fast-growing vines that can cover trees but they are not parasitic plants.  These invasive vines use trees and shrubs as means to grow off the ground and find sunlight but they produce their own food through photosynthesis and are not actively using the tree’s resources.


Please don’t misunderstand me though- Ivy will kill trees….There are several problems with invasive vines when they mature and are very large: vines add a significant amount of weight to the tree, they cover up a tree’s leaves and can also hide serious problems on the tree’s root crown or trunk.  All of these problems can cause serious detriment to a tree’s health and structural integrity so we recommend keeping vines off of your trees.  Please keep in mind that the living part of the tree trunk is located directly under the bark so we don’t want to cut into the tree when removing vines.  It isn’t always a job for a professional if the vines are small but PLEASE call your Boutte Tree arborist for options on how to keep ivy off your trees.  J


Quick Story-


One of our crews recently had a project for a builder that had all of the proper City of Atlanta tree removal permits but needed a quality tree removal company ASAP because there were some tricky trees near neighboring houses.  The Boutte Tree team put together a removal plan in less than 24 hours and send one of our crews led by Jim Harris.  All of the 80-100’ tall trees were going to be cut from the ground and skillfully aimed towards the middle of the empty lot. In order to make a precise notch in the front of the tree, Jim removed the massive English ivy vines that had completely encompassed the tree trunk.  After removing the solid mat of vines, Jim discovered that the tree had extensive decay and was 60% hollow.  How was this tree still standing?  Fortunately, this tree was already scheduled for removal and the property was an empty lot because this tree was no longer safe to climb and remove traditionally if it was surrounded with an expensive landscape.  Using his arboricultural and felling acumen, Jim and the crew safely removed the tree away from a busy street and power lines!


Even though it’s hard to say why this particular tree was rotten, ivy was hiding a serious issue and was one of the reasons this tree wasn’t identified years ago as a potential hazard.  “Arboricultural Moral of the Story”- English Ivy Hurts Trees; removing vines is an important part of inspecting trees during health and risk assessments.



  • Shell

    Thank you for the story. Basically yea there are several paragraphs of explanation behind the sign, which would be difficult to convey when you have .5 seconds of somebody’s attention. English Ivy is pretty out of control. Can’t it live off the nutrients in the trunk of the tree as well. Sometimes it appears as though the ivy is still living up the trunk and into the tree even when cut off the base, but other times it looks like cutting at the base successfully kills the Ivy up the tree. It should also be noted that English Ivy is not just harmful to trees, but doesn’t allow the local grasses and flowers to rise and bloom reducing habitat for local insects–>birds–> etc. Also if you want to reduce the amount of mosquitoes around the property which are also a health hazard to people, remove that English Ivy. Mosquitoes love that stuff. Save some if you want but only as an indoor plant for air quality. The problem its still sold at major stores like Home Depot to be planted in yards.

  • bouttetree

    Emglish Ivy is not parasitic; it doesn’t “feed off”
    trees. Conversely, mistletoe is parasitic and steals a tree’s water and
    nutrients. But it does still kill trees, yes. 🙂

  • christopher lewis

    My home has several 75+ year old oaks. When I first moved in, English ivy (evergreen variety) had completely encompassed four of the trees. Upon removal of the ivy, it was discovered that three of the four trees had similar issues as the tree in your images. Sadly, there was no way to save the trees and they were fell shortly after. I’m assuming that the ivy provides protection from the sun and predators for various insects to make use of the trees. I can say that one of the trees appeared to have suffered extensive rot due to high moisture. This specimen was well shaded and extensively covered with four inch thick vines which created a barrier, preventing much needed evaporation.