The Hedera genus isn’t a large family, having only 15 species of climbing and ground-creeping evergreen woody plants. It is part of the massive Aralia or Araliaceae family, a group of flowering plants that includes 254 species of trees, shrubs, lianas and perennial herbaceous plants. Ivies are native to the Atlantic Islands, Europe, northwestern Africa and the Eastern to Southern parts of Asia.
One of the central tenets in The Art of War is to know thy enemy. In this botanical instance, it means finding out what ivies look like. If you don’t know or aren’t sure of the physical characteristics of your foe, you will only end up fruitless and frustrated in your quest to beat it. If you see a plant with these attributes, you are probably dealing with a Hedera offshoot and you need to get rid of it quickly.
- Length. Ivies can climb up to 30 meters from the ground to the top of trees or rock surfaces.
- Leaves. Ivy leaves are either heart shaped with no lobes or have four or more leaflets coming from a single point.
- Flowers. They are greenish-yellow with small umbels and have very high nectar content, making them attractive to bees and other insects.
- Fruits. These small black berries ripe in late winter and are toxic to humans, but necessary for the survival of many birds.
Ivies are notoriously invasive weeds. They compete for ground nutrients and water, leaving trees vulnerable to uprooting during heavy winds and floods. Worse, the ivy creates a wider and denser evergreen ground cover that can spread over large areas and take all the nourishment away from native vegetation.
Ivies are also infamous for suddenly popping up in cracks and holes, especially in cracked buildings and highways. This causes building walls to break further and badly damage the entire structure. The impairment becomes more severe when ivies come into contact with wood. The roots would cause the timber to split, allowing moisture and fungus to enter and begin total destruction of the material.
This is one of the toughest Hedera species to eliminate. As they grow older, their leaves develop a waxy protective coat that almost nullifies the effects of herbicides. Yanking them out by hand is also nearly impossible because the vines re-root themselves immediately each time they touch the ground. However, it is still possible to eradicate this problem completely by combining herbicides and digging.
- Herbicides. The best time to apply herbicide is when the ivy has yet to develop its waxy layer, which is usually during the spring or summer. Spraying the budding leaves allows the herbicide to penetrate the ivy’s root system. It may take up to a couple of weeks for this substance to take effect and kill the plant. Still, don’t be surprised if it takes multiple applications to eradicate it completely, especially if you fail to keep track of new plant growths. You can start digging when the ivy turns brown completely.
After patiently waiting for the new leaf growth that didn’t arrive, slash the surface of the mature leaves with a rake or a weed cutter and apply herbicide afterwards. Alternatively, you may cut the old leaves and wait for new growth to come in before administering the weed killer.
- Dig. This is easier to do when you are dealing with dead ivy, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait for it to roll over and die. After going berserk with herbicides, dig along the edges at about 30 centimeters deep to expose the roots of the ivy. Once you get a hold of the roots, grab them and pull the ivy all the way up. Shake as much dirt from the roots and fold the loosened plant back onto the ivy you haven’t dug up yet.
Keep digging, shaking and rolling until every weed is done. If you aren’t comfortable with herbicides, it is absolutely essential to remove all of the roots because a tiny fragment is enough to produce a healthy amount of ivies and negate all your efforts. When you’re finished, you may till and replant the soil or leave it unused. Always keep an eye out for new ivies because this family doesn’t give up easily and may sprout back even after disappearing for months.Wall IvyAs mentioned earlier, ivies are fond of growing on wall cracks and holes. Although they might give your home a nice rustic feel, it isn’t enough reason to keep them hanging around. Wall ivies can penetrate through thick walls, wood or concrete, and compromise the structural integrity of your place.
- Clip. Cut the ivy completely along the base of the wall using some garden clippers. If it extends over the wall, you need to reach out and cut or pull it as well.
- Pull. Drag out the destructive plant by hand after cutting the top and bottom vines. However, be careful in ruining parts of the wall because they may go with the ivies when you try to tug them out. In this case, nip the ivy off the surface first before pulling to minimize the potential risk of destroying your walls. Don’t worry about the small roots that remain stuck to the wall because they will eventually dry up and fall down over time.
- Wash. Cleanse the wall using a hard-bristled brush and laundry detergent solution immediately after disposing the wall ivy. If you leave ivies hanging on your walls, they become impossible to detach because of their adhesive pads.
In case you were wondering, poison ivy isn’t part of the Hedera clan. It is part of an entirely different genus and has nothing to do with the Drew Barrymore seduction movie. Ivies are tough and persistent, but with a little de-vine intervention, nothing is impossible.
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