Our Tree is Wrapped in Huge Mature Ivy Branches

Asked November 18, 2014, 6:15 PM EST

Hi, At our new house, our backyard has a beautiful, huge tree - and ivy has had its way with it for a few decades. How can we tell if the tree is still structurally sound (or healthy enough) to remove the huge ivy branches wrapped around it? Thank you.

Washington County Oregon

3 Responses

Wow, you have quite the ivy-tree combo. I've got an article link to provide, and at the bottom of the article, there is a link to take you to more photos and explanations about how to deal with the ivy. http://extension.oregonstate.edu/gardening/node/1047.
However, other questions to ask include the structural integrity of the tree, as you mention. The ivy will weigh a lot, though less once it is dead and drying out. So there may be some "wait a year or two and see" aspect of your decision.

Another very important consideration is what kind of tree is it, do you want it, and is it in a good location to grow bigger once it is freed from the ivy. I can't tell you from the bark, though it looks familiar, what tree you have. Do you know? Many times at a fence-line there are volunteer "trash" trees that you don't really want to encourage. The bark reminds me of the invasive "tree of heaven", Ailanthus altissima, so truly identifying the tree before spending time saving it seems a reasonable first step.

Thank you for your input. We appreciate it. We're fairly sure it's some sort of ash tree and it's in a nice location to grow. So, I guess getting a positive ID on the tree and then determining if the tree is strong enough to stand after we cut off the ivy. If we decide it's alright to go for it and cut off the ivy- what time of year is best for the sake of the tree? I've included a couple more pictures. One is of the leaves before they fell. The other is another shot of one of some of the ivy. branches on the tree trunk. I think we're going to need a bigger hacksaw....

I agree, ash is looking likely for the tree identity. I don't think there's any research about when to best remove the ivy....generally the sooner the better. Yes, a bigger saw, and as the article says, being careful about removing the ivy without damaging the bark too much is important. It will look odd as the ivy dries and dies. Should make for interesting photos, sort of a "how we did it" story.
Will the tree be strong enough to stand? Is it strong enough now to be safe? (The ivy leaves don't drop, so in winter winds the big evergreen mass is stressing the tree more than an ash would experience naturally. I'm impressed it hasn't come over already.) At any point in the process, you can hire a certified arborist to come see the tree and make a judgement about its safety. Especially if this tree will cause injury or property damage if it falls, professional help is advised. Be sure the tree company sends a certified arborist, ask about prices up front, and possibly interview on the phone to find someone with ivy/tree experience.