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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid