How to Kill English Ivy by Burning

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It may look attractive climbing a building, but left unchecked, English ivy can completely take over a forest.
It may look attractive climbing a building, but left unchecked, English ivy can completely take over a forest. (Image: Ivy wall image by Tasha from Fotolia.com)

English ivy is a non-native, invasive species that poses the biggest problem for forests in the Pacific Northwest. When properly maintained and contained, the vine does not pose a problem, but once left to its own devices, it quickly takes over. The vine forms a dense blanket on the forest floor and climbs trees to access the light above the canopy, preventing sunlight from reaching the tree's leaves. The weight of the vines leaves the trees vulnerable to toppling over in a storm and the ground cover inhibits the growth of native species.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp hedge trimmers
  • Flat pry bar
  • Work gloves
  • Shovel
  • Contained burn barrel or other enclosure

Obtain a fire permit. Your town may not permit the burning of open piles of brush. The fire may have to be contained in an incinerator or other contained burn barrel.

Cut, grab, pull and dig the vine away from trees and ornamentals wherever you can. This can be sweaty, laborious work but it is the most effective way to remove English ivy and it is faster and more reliable than using chemical controls. A long length of vine will come loose with a single heave. Try to remove as much of the shallow root system as possible.

Use a flat pry bar to prize the large vines away from tree trunks and sever them with a sharp pair of hedge trimmers. Locate the smaller vines hiding beneath the large ones and cut them, too.

Cut the vines at shoulder and ankle height--all around the tree--and strip them from the trunk. This is known as girdling the ivy. Because ivy is not a parasitic vine, it will die once it has been separated from its root system.

Pull up as much of the root system as you can, creating a 6-foot section of ivy-free space completely encircling the tree. You should be able to roll back the roots to remove them, as recommended by The No Ivy League of Portland, Ore.

Build a small fire and begin to feed small piles of vines into the flames. Gradually feed the fire with more and more vines, until the ivy has been reduced to ashes. Burning the ivy is the only way to ensure that it is destroyed.

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