Sep 26 2019

Ivy and epicormic growth

At the beginning of Autumn each year at Tring Park we task ourselves with the removal of the epicormic growth from the base of the Lime trees in the avenue that leads up from the pasture meadow to the Summerhouse via the Obelisk.

The growth is not necessarily doing any direct harm to the trees except maybe draining resources in the growing and taking moisture that could be better used up top but it does look untidy and as this avenue is of some significance to the park design the aesthetics of the trees is important. We use shears, loppers and secateurs to achieve a close neat cut and although the growth is mainly from the bulbous growths at the very base we also cut the small individual shoots up as far as we can reach. The process is quite slow and methodical clipping through the dense growth with the secateurs as if at the hairdressers but is also extremely satisfying as the results are always impressive and the difference between before and after very marked.



This year I also removed some of the largest ivy growths that were beginning to take over on a few of the trees. To me deciduous trees showing their magnificent skeletal forms in a winter landscape is a tremendous sight but one that is often spoilt by trees that are still green because of the ivy growing within the canopies. I carry a small saw in the car and when I see an evasive growth of ivy spreading into a tree canopy I stop by the roadside and snip through the thick roots to relieve the tree of its burden.


The roots are fairly soft to cut through – even the thick ones, but they can be quite awkward to cut without damaging the tree as they hug and grip the trunks so tightly. A small crowbar is a good tool to help lever the thicker roots away from the trunk and a small saw is then used to cut, a pair of loppers to snip through the smaller roots are also useful to have. A noticeable release of tension is experienced when cutting through the thicker roots as the grip on the tree is tight and cutting a chunk out of the root rather than just one cut will combat any chance of the root reconnecting. Once the root has been cut, the ivy up in the tree will die back over time and eventually disappear and whilst doing this it will provide a useful habitat for birds and invertebrates. The root still in the ground may well reshoot to restart the process over again but that’s maybe a good thing. I have nothing personal against ivy, just a need to keep its growth out of the trees and a revisit in a few years time is not a hardship as any contact with trees is a good thing.





Geof Howe (lead volunteer at Tring Park)

Images: Geof Howe

  • SimonLeatherdale

    Never say never (there may be an occasion when ivy should be cut) but ivy is so important from a conservation point of view that almost always it would be better to leave it alive and in place.

    October 14, 2019 at 7:25 pm
  • IanRetson

    Aesthetically in a man-made landscape I can understand why Geof trims the Ivy but I am totally in agreement with Simon. My Ivy hedge (hosted by Leylandii, so little loss there ) is a home for nesting Dunnocks and vital food and shelter in winter (no other plant produces fruit in winter that I know of) for all the garden birds. In our woods I like the lush growth, knowing its value and think it enhances some of the dead and dying trees. Never the less we all have different ways.

    November 17, 2019 at 9:31 pm

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