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Woodland-ivy infested trees

Hi all, we inherited a neglected woodland area as part of our new house and garden a few years ago and over the last year have been tackling the ivy in the wood and marking up the possibly dead - and definitely dead - trees. We'll get the tree surgeon back late autumn for the highest problem trees, it's a journey as they say, and of course only once the birds have finished nesting - aware woodland work needs to stop for many months now, but in the meantime I'd be interested on your views on the ivy, as it's puzzling me. 

The wood is a mix of ash, beech, field maple, oak, sycamore, hawthorn, hazel and holly. Too many trees close together without thinning out has resulted in very very tall, thin trees with a small crown right at the top. I believe the wood has been there for over 50 years, the plot was an old smallholding. The ground is largely ivy in the centre portion of the wood (or bluebells, cow parsley and anemone on the edges, lovely!) and the ivy has climbed in many of the trees right up the bark and in the crown over the years. Over the winter and early spring we've been cutting it back at the base leaving a large gap to kill it off - a pic is below of one tree where the ivy has been cut off at the base - hope you can see it ok, I've modified it today to get the size down as it wouldn't upload initially. 

My questions are

-How many years would the ivy have been growing to get stems as thick as the pic shown? I'm amazed how thick the ivy roots and stems are. 

-Does the ivy know which trees are in decline? Some of the most heavily infested are dead underneath (woodworm), whilst some are not, at least at face value - should I take the infestation as a sign that those are too are in a bad way.? I'd been hoping some will recover in the spring and summer with more light and air, but looking in the wood today I'm not so sure. Only the hawthorns and hazels seem to be budding so far. No ash buds yet. But the rooks are nesting in the ash again which I hope is a good sign.

-The ivy seems to stay away from Holly - no holly trees had ivy creeping up the bark - the most heavily infested with ivy were hawthorn and ash, unless these are the unhealthiest in the wood. And possibly field maple, I'm still learning to identify the different trees before the leaves are out!

Many thanks, I'm keen to learn a little more now I have a wood, planning to coppice the hazels next winter, and a woodland book is definitely on my christmas list...







  • nutcutletnutcutlet Posts: 27,350

    I don't think ivy or not relates to the health of the tree, they're only clinging on and do the same on a wall.

    ash is late to leaf compared to many. Wait and see what looks best when they all get in leaf.

    Hazels are good, they can be coppiced and ivy can be prevented from covering the next growth.

    In the sticks near Peterborough
  • I did hear on GQT that it a tree can die because the ivy is removed but no one knows why. Ivy only needs removing from trees if it is hanging in 'sheets'  which can act like a sail in strong winds and bring the tree down, it does no harm to the tree otherwise.

  •  Thanks Nut, Flowerlover.

    There were definitely some hanging in sheets, some of which had grown so long they'd reattached to the ground more than 50 ft back down. image

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 86,913

    If oak be out before the ash

    We will only have a splash.

    If ash be out before the oak

    We will surely have a soak.


    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Bbq summer then Dove image

  • WaysideWayside Posts: 845
    Update please.   Hacked some ivy back that is at least 5 inches in thickness, it's wider than the tree it surrounds in places.
  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923
    don't remove ivy unless you absolutely have to, it's really important for wildlife due to the late flowers and early berries,

    ivy does not kill trees, it does not drag them to the floor like i've heard some people tell me. it is a natural part of a woodland. usually it gets established as there's too little light reaching the woodland floor and it's one of the few plants that will grow with very poor light. Once you thin the tree's out (try putting in some clearings as well) then it should start being out competed by other species that will grow in the better light, ivy on the ground only grows a few inches tall, anything taller can completely shade it out.
  • plant pauperplant pauper Posts: 6,904
    I have an exception to that @treehugger80. I have 80ft high Scots Pines on the edge of a ditch and the ivy is mighty. Over the last few years the weight of the ivy at the tops has pulled over a couple of trees so this past Winter I cleared the ivy from about four feet up by cutting through and letting it die back naturally before any nesting started. The problem was a combination of weight and shallow roots. I have one more to do which is angling precariously over the road but it'll have to wait till everybody has fledged. 
    Don't worry...there's still a forest of the stuff left and I leave it as ground cover under the remaining trees.  ;)
  • treehugger80treehugger80 Posts: 1,923
    sounds like poor roots in bad soil, with a ditch allowing the roots to be only one one side of the tree, plus wind, i personally blame the trees, not the ivy for that.
  • purplerallimpurplerallim Posts: 5,222
    My trouble with ivy is that if it gets into the canopy the tree lacks light getting to the leaves, its not strangulation that kills a tree it's smothering. I guess the harm to a tree could weaken it to the point where woodworm/disease could enter , I have a Hawthorn that I am trying to save at the moment, but can't do too much as ivy is in next doors garden. So it's chicken and egg, did ivy come to a dieing tree or is the tree dieing because of the ivy?
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