Ivy in Big Finn Hill Park

Have you ever wandered through Big Finn Hill Park and noticed the ivy climbing the trees, devouring the bushes and threatening to snag day dreaming pedestrians and bicyclists? Have you noticed that in some areas you can’t find any plants except ivy? Have you wondered how to harness the energy of seventy fifth graders productively? King County Parks’ volunteer coordinators suggested that bringing the fifth graders to the ivy would be a great combination.

On November 1, seventy fifth graders from Sandburg elementary, their instructors and parents joined King County Parks volunteers in an invasive ivy remediation project north of the Finn Hill middle school track. The enthusiasm and energy were contagious. Within an hour, there were several mountains of ivy. One team focused on ivy climbing the trees, removing and severing the ivy around the bottom of the tree. The other teams went after the ivy on the ground, which was tangled in the sword ferns, American plum and salal.

Some of the tidbits gleaned from our adventure:

  • With careful pulling and a bit of luck, it is possible to pull out a single strand of ivy almost fifteen feet long.
  • The ivy climbing the trees was older than the average fifth grader. We counted rings on a number of the stems and discovered one was 21 years old and several stems were at least 16.
  • A clan of salamanders is living around one of the sword ferns. They scampered rapidly home when we disrupted their routine by pulling the ivy.
  • All sorts of amazing things were hidden in the ivy including an old cart, a car tire, and glass jars.

English ivy thrives in the Pacific Northwest.  Since it stays green all year, grows enthusiastically and binds erosion prone slopes, it has been a popular plant in home and commercial landscapes.  It has no natural predators and provides excellent habitat for rats.  It is considered an “invasive plant” and is rapidly taking over our urban forests, burying the native understory and climbing the trees.   When ivy climbs trees, it makes the tree more prone to disease and wind-stress when the ivy creates a sail.   More than one of our neighbors has lost a fence to a tree covered in ivy falling from the wind.

The fifth graders made a great dent in the ivy in one corner of the park, but there is plenty more for enthusiastic volunteers. You don’t need to join an organized group to have an impact, jump right in. It is an excellent way to burn off the December cookies.  Sometimes the best place to start is at home. Don’t plant ivy, pull it if it is trying to sneak in or is already there, and consider alternatives for landscaping.  There are a number of other invasive plants in the Big Finn Hill Park forest, including holly, Himalayan blackberry, laurel and stinky Bob. The seasonal English carol “The Holly and the Ivy” triggers shudders!

I am planning to coordinate some ivy pulling sessions in Big Finn Hill Park.  If interested in joining a group or learning more, please contact me at Jeanette@finnhillalliance.org.

Ivy in Big Finn Hill Park

Resource:  Seattle Ivy O.U.T. (off urban trees)

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