Question about ivy growing up a tree

Is English Ivy harmful to a tree if it is allowed to grow up the the branches? I’ve heard both ways. I’ve heard that it isn’t a parasite therefore it doesn’t really hurt the tree. I’ve also heard the it eventually stifles(?) the growth of new limbs & leaves.

I have two 40 year old fruitless mulberry tree and I’d hate to kill them just because I let the ivy grow too much. But I like the way they look with ivy hanging all over them. It’s about 10 or 12 feet up the main branches right now.

Does anyone know if I’m killing my trees?


From what I understand, English Ivy (Hedera Helix) poses a definite problem to not only trees but forest habitats in general, choking out other ground cover plants. I have heard that it “strangles” the tree eventually if left unchecked. One might assume that this means a fair amount of pruning (to the ivy) might allow both to live in harmony. I’ve had luck doing this, but only on much larger trees (water oaks, specifically). I’ve also read that the ivy eventually gets to the point where branches break due to the added weight. To be sure, that’s a lot of ivy, but I have seen it. I’m not sure if there’s any specific parasitic action associated with English ivy other than the above. You can find more info here:

You have confirmed what I had thought. I probably should cut the vines so they don’t go more than 10 or 12 feet up. The dead vines are ugly. They don’t die and fall off, they just turn brown and stay there.

These are big trees, 7’ and 9’ girths about 40 feet tall. I was hoping to just let the ivy go, but it sounds like I had better limit it’s growth somewhat.

I don’t have a problem with it on the ground. I have about a 7 foot diameter area that it grows in. I have Periwinkle growing with it which grows taller and kinda over power it on the ground.

Thanks for the input. I guess I better keep it under control instead of just letting the place turn into a jungle.


Don’t let ivy grow at all on the tree. Slice it at the base, let it dry out & take it off…If you let it grow on the tree it looks real ugly & eventually takes over.

Ivy isn’t strictly speaking a parasite on the tree, not the way that mistletoe is.

I’m sitting here with two HP Books Lawns and Ground Covers and Trees and Shrubs, both of which say that English ivy is a prodigious grower, that the clinging aerial roots can damaged painted surfaces and wooden walls, that on the ground it can become a haven for slugs and snails, but there’s absolutely nothing that says, “Don’t for God’s sake let this climb up into a tree.”

I would say it’s okay to let it climb up into your mulberry trees, as long as you realize the danger of breaking branches during ice storms, which to my mind would be the biggest danger.

P.S. This is probably a dumb question but I feel impelled to ask: you’re sure this is English ivy and not poison ivy? Poison ivy’s a whole 'nother ball game, babe. Get that sucker outta there, use flamethrowers if you have to, sacrifice the mulberry trees for the good of humanity.

Also, you’re sure it’s not Virginia creeper (sometimes known as Boston ivy)? Virginia creeper grows up into trees all the time, doesn’t hurt a thing.

I know it looks pretty but I don’t think it’s a good idea to let it grow unchecked. Other than the other reasons mentioned it is also taking moisture and nutrients out of the soil surrounding the tree. It’s much easier to replace a patch of overgrown ground cover than it is to replace a lovely 40 year old tree. I wouldn’t chance losing them if you like them so much. In addition to being a haven for slugs (we have lots of them here) it also harbors mosquitos. My mother had a large patch of it on one side of her car port. The mosquitos would lay in wait for you to come out the back door and attack from their dense haven, even in broad daylight! My mother and I pulled it all up, put in a little path, some candy tuft, daffodills, and an azalea. Now you don’t have to dash to the car to keep from getting eaten alive!


We have a problem with ivy growing on the Garry Oaks around here (I think that these trees are known in the US as “Oregon White Oaks”). The ivy adds a fair amount of weight, especially when wet.

During the winter/early spring, when we get windstorms, the ivy adds a great deal of “drag” to the (normally pretty aerodynamic) smaller limbs, and causes a lot of breakoff.

It is also not a good idea to let ivy grow on a masonry building, as the little rhizomes (or whatever it uses to cling) will find cracks, enlarge them, and allow moisture to creep in (ivy also traps humidity against the building surface). If you’re in an area that freezes in winter, this exacerbates the effect. Kind of like millions of tiny masonry drills chiiping away. Ivy looks great on heritage buildings, but it is a threat to the fabric.

Bad, bad,*BAD idea. I hope you were joking. The absolute worst thing you could do in the fight to rid your yard of poison ivy is burn the shit.

See, what makes poison ivy all nasty is the oil on its leaves, called urrushiol, IIRC. If you burn poison ivy, the oil gets in the smoke. Then you can sing:

They asked me why the hell both my lungs are broke;
I of course replied “Built a fire outside, poison ivy fried”
They said “You lost your mind, lucky you’re not blind!
When the plant’s on fire, you unlucky bloke -
oil gets in the smoke!”

…apologies to Otto Harbach and Jerome Kern…

Thenk yew, leddies an’ gennelmun, I’m here thtough the end of the month. Please tip your servers generously, and remember the two-drink minimum.

DDG, it is definately English Ivy. Though I’m not allergic to Poison Ivy, lots of kids and grandkids climb around on those trees and I’m sure I would have known if it were Poison Ivy.
Handy, so you don’t not like Ivy growing in trees. I get plenty of compliments on my lawn and flowers, but the trees with the Ivy growing up them easily draws the most.
Needs2know, I’m in north Texas, mosquitoes can carry away small animals. I’ve not notice any concentration of them in the Ivy though.
Rodd Hill, the trees are in the middle of the front yard. I’ve talked myself out of putting some along the north side of the house where it is hard to grow grass just for the reason you said. This old house is barely held together anyway, the last thing I need is to have the Ivy prying my bricks loose.

I have a border around all the trees and the Ivy and the Periwinkle tend to overgrow, so they have to be cut back a few times a year, so I don’t worry too much about the portion on the ground.
As far as extra weight is concerned, I hadn’t considered that before. I prune these trees for upward growth so I have removed the major branches that aren’t growing mostly vertical. I’m not sure that’s too much of a problem.
I have lots of snails in my flower bed but have never seen any in the Ivy. They must like the flowers more.