Sometimes it really does feel as if English Ivy is taking over the South. Yes it is more attractive and better behaved than Kudzu, but only marginally. At the recent Cullowhee Native Plant Conference, Eli Dickerson, Ecologist at Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta talked about Fernbank’s efforts to tackle the years of English Ivy, in his presentation, “Saving an Old Growth Forest from the Vicious Grip of Invasive Plants.”
Fernbank owns a 67 acre urban old growth forest and Eli was hired to restore it to health. Fortunately for Fernbank, they were able to obtain grants to fund this expensive and labor intensive process. And a great deal of their efforts were spent tackling two common Piedmont invasive exotics–English Ivy (Hedera helix) and Monkey Grass (Liriope spicata).
With the help of a private contractor known as Machete Man, Trees Atlanta, and thousands of volunteer hours, they were able to begin to restore parts of the forest. Once the Ivy and Monkey Grass were cleared, Eli’s philosophy is to let nature take its course, and see what will emerge from the existing seed bank. You can see in the before and after photos below the results of all of this effort. If you are visiting Atlanta, I encourage you to visit Fernbank’s Nature Museum.
Removing mosquito habitat
Controlling or replacing English Ivy and Monkey Grass can also help you with mosquito issues, because most pest control companies will target these areas in your yard with spray. Mosquitos love to live in the moist shady environment provided by this very thick ground cover. If you have felt that it is necessary to spray for mosquitos in your yard and have subsequently noticed fewer butterflies and other pollinators, removing this mosquito habitat might be an option to wide spread spraying, which harms all types of insects including the beneficial ones.
Native Alternatives to English Ivy
Eli Dickerson has graciously allowed us to share Fernbank’s list of native alternatives to English Ivy to help you with ideas for your own back yard.
Native groundcover alternatives to English Ivy:
Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia)
Carex species (C. plantaginea, C. flaccosperma) Green-and-Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum) Mouse-Eared Coreopsis (Coreopsis auriculata)
Galax (Galax urceolata)
Alum Root (Heuchera americana)
Wild Gingers (Hexastylis arifolia and Asarum canadense) Partridgeberry (Mitchella )
Moss Phlox or Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Lyre-leaf Sage (Salvia lyrata)
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)
Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)
Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis)
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia)
Moss (many species)
Deciduous groundcover options: Allegheny Spurge (Pachysandra procumbens), Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Dwarf Crested Iris (Iris crestata), Deciduous Ginger (Asarum canadense), Broad Beech Fern (Thelypteris hexagonoptera), Hay-scented Fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula).
Native vine groundcovers: Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), Wood Vamp or native Climbing Hydrangea (Decumaria barbara), and Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
Compiled by Fernbank Museum of Natural History with resources from Georgia Native Plant Society. November, 2015. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Used with permission.