Does ivy kill trees?

Photograph of ivy on a tree.

Ivy does not kill or damage trees and its presence doesn’t indicate that a tree is unhealthy or create a tree safety issue in its own right. (Photo: Adrian Yeo/WTML)

Ivy uses trees and walls for support, allowing it to reach upwards to better levels of sunlight. It is not a parasitic plant and has a separate root system in the soil and so absorbs its own nutrients and water as needed. In fact its presence has huge wildlife benefits.

Does ivy kill trees?

Ivy does not kill or damage trees and its presence doesn’t indicate that a tree is unhealthy or create a tree safety issue in its own right.

Should ivy be removed from trees?

One of the main implications is that ivy may hide defects or structural issues in the tree, so in some instances ivy may need to be removed to allow safety assessments to take place.

The growth of ivy is controlled by the healthy crowns of trees which limit the amount of sunlight reaching ivy leaves. When ivy does grow on trees, it usually adopts its mature flowering form and ceases climbing before it reaches the crown of a tree.

How we manage ivy on trees

If ivy is continually cut or stripped to restrict growth, it prevents the plant from reaching maturity and developing flowers and fruit and its use to wildlife is reduced.

The wildlife benefits of ivy are huge. At least 50 species are associated with it and the real figure is likely to be much higher. Both the pollen and berries can be an essential source of food for many insects and birds and ivy provides shelter for invertebrates, birds, small mammals and bats. Any management of ivy must consider the impact it might have on these dependent animals.

Here at the Woodland Trust, we do not have a policy of cutting or managing ivy on our sites unless there is specific reason. This could include the conservation of plants that grow on ancient trees (e.g. lichens and mosses), prolonging the life of ancient trees that have structural problems, or for tree safety reasons.

Find out more about ivy.

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