News / Science & Technology

Volunteers Battle Rampant Ivy Overtaking Parks

Non-native English ivy cloaks trees and blankets the forest floor all over Olympia, Washington's Priest Point Park. (T. Banse/VOA)
Non-native English ivy cloaks trees and blankets the forest floor all over Olympia, Washington's Priest Point Park. (T. Banse/VOA)
Tom Banse
Most of us have a workday morning routine. For some, a bit of exercise comes first. For others, it's two cups of coffee over the sports pages.

In Olympia, Washington, teacher Kevin Head rises long before dawn on school days to go alone to a city park. There, his routine begins by asking the rampant ivy vines for forgiveness.

"Thank you ivy for your tenaciousness, your strength," he said. "I ask you to let me take you out for the benefit of the world here."

And then Head leans down with gloved hands and for the next half hour, rips and yanks out as much ivy as he can.

The 56-year-old man works by the light of a single headlamp. Pretty much anything he grabs in this grove of big leaf maples is bound to be ivy.
Volunteer Kevin Head clears ivy in the pre-dawn darkness at Olympia's Priest Point Park in Washington State. (T. Banse/VOA)Volunteer Kevin Head clears ivy in the pre-dawn darkness at Olympia's Priest Point Park in Washington State. (T. Banse/VOA)
x
Volunteer Kevin Head clears ivy in the pre-dawn darkness at Olympia's Priest Point Park in Washington State. (T. Banse/VOA)
Volunteer Kevin Head clears ivy in the pre-dawn darkness at Olympia's Priest Point Park in Washington State. (T. Banse/VOA)


Head, and hundreds of volunteers like him nationwide, are motivated by a desire to restore the habitat for native plants and birds.

Botanical researchers believe English colonists brought the popular European groundcover to the New World as early as 1727.

Since then, English ivy has become one of the most widespread invasive plants in the U.S., found in about 30 states, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It has also invaded parts of South America, Australia and New Zealand.

At the same time, some gardening societies and nurseries still promote ivy as a useful ornamental plant.

Outside the cultivated garden, English ivy carpets the ground and engulfs tree trunks, weighing down upper branches, and blocking sunlight from reaching the lower levels of vegetation. Responsibility for combating escaped ivy generally rests at the local level. Land owners typically take the approach described by Sylvana Niehuser, the City of Olympia's park ranger.

"English ivy has a waxy property to the leaves. So spraying is not very effective at all. You can't mow it because it is just a tangley mess," Niehuser said. "So you are left with manual control by pulling it."

Niehuser figures it could take decades - if not a century - to pull all the ivy in Priest Point Park alone where Head volunteers. But she says the battle is winnable when you set your sights on smaller plots and saving individual trees.

"We try to focus on prioritizing in large parks like this," she said. "Then in our small parks, we try to work on getting it completely eradicated."

Niehuser mostly relies on volunteers for ivy control in Olympia parks because of staff cutbacks and tight budgets. It’s the same story elsewhere on the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards where escaped ivy is most common. The infestation peters out as soon as you cross into the drier terrain of the American heartland.

Oregon is home to one of the biggest and oldest anti-ivy campaigns in the country. Mary Verrilli manages the No Ivy League, a program within the Portland Parks & Recreation Department.

"One thing that stands out is how much square feet of ivy we have removed," Verrilli said. "This is ivy from the ground. It's been over 4 million square feet of ivy. It's really impressive to see these stats since 1994."

Which is when the No Ivy League started. Of course, with nearly three centuries of growth behind them, the non-native vines have had a big head start.

Super-volunteer Head says he's committed to his ivy pulling routine at least until he retires later this decade. One thing that keeps him going is the pleasure of seeing native plants and birds return.

"I can only get about 10 square feet a day," he said. "But it is thrilling to see it start to uncover."

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More