Oct 24, 2016

There are several different kinds of ivy in Georgia, both “true ivy” and other plants that are commonly called ivy. You’re not likely to encounter Swedish, cape, or Oxford ivy here in Georgia, but here are the most common types of ivy you’ll find in the greater Atlanta metro area.

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English ivy is a member of the Hedera family, and probably the most common ivy you’ll find. English ivy, like other types of Hedera ivy, is fairly harmless to trees in Europe, but over here it can cause serious problems since it has no natural pests or diseases. Some states list it as a weed or an invasive plant, since it’s aggressive and can easily choke out other plants. It climbs buildings, fences, and trees using small roots all along its stem, which makes it very difficult to remove even when it dies. Unless you’re committed to regularly pruning it to keep it from taking over and doing damage, you should avoid letting English ivy climb your trees, since it can weaken them, block sunlight, make them more susceptible to bugs and diseases, weigh down branches and make them more likely to break off.

Ground ivy, also known as creeping charlie and gill-over-the-ground, is not actually an ivy. Many states farther north consider it an invasive weed: it was originally introduced to North America as a garden plant by early colonists. In Atlanta you’ll see its purple flowers from mid-February to mid-March. It only grows across the ground, and you won’t find it climbing trees, though it can overrun a yard at ground level.

Boston ivy doesn’t usually grow wild in Georgia, although it has been introduced to several neighboring states, but it can be found as an ornamental plant growing along the ground, up walls and fences, and on trees. It’s harmless to your trees unless it’s growing extremely thick, and much less destructive than English ivy in general, since it clings with suckers instead of roots. It is also known as grape ivy, Japanese ivy, and Japanese creeper.

Poison ivy isn’t technically an ivy at all. It produces rash-raising oil not only on its leaves but on the stem and roots, which remain dangerous to touch even after the plant itself has died. When growing on trees, its stem turns dark and fuzzy or hairy, and although it isn’t quite as aggressive as English ivy, it can cause some of the same problems for trees: restricted sunlight and added weight to high branches. However, it doesn’t usually kill trees, and the main problem with poison ivy is its harmfulness to humans.

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