Tag: ivy

Vines Growing on Trees – Good or Bad?

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Trumpet Vine

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English ivy and other evergreen vines can cause problems in trees, along with fast growing deciduous (lose their leaves in winter) vines like Kudzu. However, not all vines do harm to trees.

Problem Vines:

  • English ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata )
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
  • Chinese/Japanese wisteria (Wisteria spp.)
  • Kudzu (Pueraria spp.)
  • Euonymus  (spp.)

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These are just a few of the bad vines to allow to grow on trees. Evergreen and fast growing vines should be avoided or removed if possible. All vines can cause structural problems – The added weight can break branches along with the vine catching more wind, snow or ice than the tree is used to receiving, possibly causing it to topple. Some vines that start as a groundcover (such as ivy), form a dense mat covering the tree’s buttress or root flare. The vine often causes leaves and debris to pile up against the root collar and traps moisture against the trunk and root flare. This can cause many fungal and bacterial type diseases, as well as potential structural decay at the base of the tree. Deciduous vines aren’t necessarily any better than their evergreen counterparts. They, too have the capability of shading out the tree’s leaves, adding weight and even girdling (strangling) the tree’s limbs and trunk. Some common vines in this category; Chinese/Japanese wisteria, trumpet vine and pipevine. Trumpet vine and pipevine are native to the Midwest and usually confine their growth to trees at the edge of woods or those that are standing alone. Therefore, they don’t represent a threat to the forest overall, but they can take their toll on individual trees. It comes to personal preference if you want to go down this road.

Leave Them Be Vines:

Vines that are smaller and grow more slowly that can usually be allowed to grow on trees.

  • Clematis species
  • Virgin’s bower (native clematis – Clematis virginiana)
  • Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata)
  • Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quincifolia)
  • Carolina moonseed (Cocculus carolinus)
  • Maypop / Purple Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)

Although Virginia creeper and crossvine can grow quickly and get large, I’ve never seen any tree so overgrown with them as to pose a problem even though crossvine can be evergreen. The clematis vines (including the native), Carolina moonseed and maypop climb by twining, however do not strangle the tree. Crossvine, Virginia creeper and poison ivy climb by using their aerial roots. People often confuse Virginia creeper and poison ivy. Just remember this little ditty:

“Leaves of three, leave it be. Leaves of five, leave it alive (or let it thrive).”

And before anyone jumps down my throat about the poison ivy, I would like to remind everyone that the Audubon Society considers poison ivy to be one of the top food sources for song birds, with about 63 species feeding on the berries. It’s so important, that nature has essential plant foods for birds. However, I digress. … Should you decide to let a smaller, slower-growing vine grow up a living tree, be prepared to manage the vine by cutting it back to keep it confined to the trunk and not allow it to grow on the limbs which could add weight and change the tree’s center of gravity as well as shade the tree’s leaves. Make sure that fallen leaves and other plant debris don’t collect at the bottom of the vine against the host tree or diseases may follow. Should a tree that is hosting a vine show signs of stress, the vine will have to go for the health of the tree. One last thought. Dead trees that are left standing (snags) can be used for vines. Just remember that this arrangement will be temporary, as the snag will eventually decay to the point of falling. Just make sure it won’t hit anything when it comes down.

© The Naturarian

Poison Ivy – Leaves of Three, Let Them Be – Leaves of Five, Let Them Thrive!!

Leaves of three, let them be… Leaves of five, let them thrive!

flowering poison ivy
Blooming Poison Ivy

Although us horticulturist know better.. they are really leaflets, as it is a compound leaf. I don’t want to mess with the original poetry, so whatever keeps you away from this itchy stuff, I’ll continue to chant!

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Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Many of you may not have heard the last part of this saying, but it is to prevent the beautiful, native vine, Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) from being lumped in with poison ivy. They both also have beautiful red, fall coloring.

I’ll discuss some of the look alikes and general areas it can be found. This guide will hopefully help you avoid this itchy plant!

Poor Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema atrorubens)… He likes to grow in all the same areas poison ivy grows. Later on after he blooms, he doesn’t resemble it as much.

Trillium does have three leaves and blooms about the same time as poison ivy, although most seasoned hikers can distinguish it. This one only fools the newbies!

Arisaema atrorubens
Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema atrorubens)
trillium
Trillium sessile

The winning doppelganger comes in the form of a box elder (Acer negundo). This weed tree is very prolific and seedlings sprout up very easily. When they are seedlings, they have a striking resemblance to the poison ivy leaf, without the red stem tho, that’s the tell. As they grow, they develop another set of leaves (leaflets) which would bring the total to 5 leaflets, thus lighting the way to pull this weed. Ok, maybe we do need to work on that poem….

Acer negundo
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Boxelder

Where To Find It:

Poison ivy is found in our Midwestern forests & natural areas. It can be a small shrub, ground cover, but mostly seen here as a vine, in shadier areas, growing on the north side of trees. It likes wetter areas, but can tolerate drier soils.

Poison ivy’s leaf shapes vary from smooth and round, to narrow and sharp, with any number of lobes. Lobes can be sharp or rounded. Lobes may be symmetric or asymmetric on the same leaf, or within the same group of leaves. The leaves are often a reddish or brownish color when they are very young and in fall they turn yellow/red like other fall foliage. The stem in the location of the three leaves tends to be redder. Arisaema atrorubens

Why You Itch:

blooming poison ivy
Blooming Poison Ivy

Poison ivy’s main component that causes the skin irritation is Urushiol. It is an oily resin that is found on the stems and leaves of poison ivy and several other related species. It causes contact dermatitis — an immune-mediated skin inflammation. This oily ingredient can even cause irritation during the winter!

Ironically, animals are immune to the oils, deer feed on the leaves and birds use the vine as living spaces along with eating the berries in fall. They do not have any reactions to the oily resin, contrary to humans. However, the oils can be transferred from your dog to your hands if you pet them.

Eh Gads, I’m Up To My Elbows! Now What?

As soon as you notice your mistake… TAKE ACTION! Speed is of the essence. The less oils you can have soak into your skin, the better.

Many washes are available. These should be brought with you hiking. Zanfel has worked great for our crews. The wash works by surrounding urushiol and bonding with it, enabling it to be rinsed away with water.

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Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Another folk remedy is to smash the stems of Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) and apply to skin. Luckily, they tend to grow near each other!

Other methods of relief.

  • Cool colloidal oatmeal baths
  • Cold, wet compresses that can be applied for 15 to 30 minutes a few times each day
  • Anti-itch creams, such as Calamine Lotion, Caladryl Clear Topical Analgesic Skin Lotion, or Aveeno Anti-Itch Cream with Natural Colloidal Oatmeal, zinc oxide,
  • Oral antihistamines such as Atarax (hydroxyzine), Benadryl or prescription strength.
  • Oral steroids, such as Orapred or Prednisone.
  • Topical steroid creams.
  • A steroid shot, Kenalog (triamcinolone acetonide)

Without further adieu, here is my Poison Ivy Gallery:

flowering ivy
Blooming poison ivy
Growing up a tree trunk.
Growing up a tree trunk.
Close - up.
Close – up.
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Poison ivy berries
fall
Fall color