Does this vine need to go?
May 13, 2016 6:03 PM   Subscribe

I have an older house in Seattle with an old tree in the back yard. It has vines growing 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the way up it. (Here are some pictures.) Should I try to remove the vines or leave them alone? I do have vines growing along a nearby fence and perpetually trying to climb anything they can get on, as well as the tree.

The Internet and my plant-knowing coworkers seem in conflict. I can't really afford to have an arborist come out right now so I'm hoping The Green knows about this green.

The tree is rather old. I've seen it on aerial pictures from the city dating back to the early 1900s. The tree itself seems otherwise healthy. It loses leaves as expected in the fall and they grow back every year. (I've lived here a little over three years.) Branches aren't falling in huge numbers and the green canopy seems filled in. The vines don't go all the way to the canopy but they're getting there.

I found an article on removing vines without chemicals but the tree is really tall and I can't get even halfway up it to remove them.

Any thoughts, my greener-than-me Internet friends?
posted by fireoyster to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Oh, forgot to note: The messed-up looking spot at the bottom is where a weed trimmer was (gently) taken to the base of the leaves to trim back some stout growth and see if there are any holes or apparent rot. I didn't see anything obvious.
posted by fireoyster at 6:04 PM on May 13, 2016

I would pull the vines down; they are quite thick and not healthy for the tree over the long run. If you carefully snake them down you likely can get most of it, and what's left will dry up and fall down over time.
posted by lathrop at 6:19 PM on May 13, 2016

That looks like English ivy, which is an invasive plant in the area. Yes, definitely try to control it. King County has some information about it and suggestions for control.
posted by eggsovereasy at 6:57 PM on May 13, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yup, English ivy, invasive nuisance plant. It chokes everything out if you let it. This isn't like some jungle vine that is symbiotic with a tree. When it starts winding up trees like that, what you can do is cut the ivy at the base. The leaves will wither and then it can be easier to pull the vines away. Even if you can't pull all the vines it's better than letting them grow.

Also, it's fun to pull ivy if you really need to get some negative energy out of your system.
posted by stowaway at 8:01 PM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yep! It's choking your tree and must come down!!

Also, what a GORGEOUS tree. Thank you :))
posted by jbenben at 8:08 PM on May 13, 2016

I have been getting very familiar with the King County noxious weed list as I have been starting to identify everything that's in the yard of my house. It is your friend. Do what it says.
posted by matildaben at 10:29 PM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yes, for the health of your tree and the eventual safety of your house (no, really!) you need to pull that down and bag it. Then you can come do mine!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:55 AM on May 14, 2016

I notice some suspicious greenery among the ivy in the last photo. Leaves of Three, Let Them Be
posted by maggieb at 1:06 AM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cut the vines at the base with loppers or a pruning saw. It will look crappy for a while and then when they've been dead a while the vines will become easier to pull down.
posted by sciencegeek at 6:43 AM on May 14, 2016

Agreeing with sciencegeek. That's what I did/do. Kill the ivy, but don't worry too much about pulling down the vines unless you can't stand to look at them. They will fall off in time (years).

Not to be discouraging, but it may already be too late to save the tree. Ivy kill a shag bark hickory in my yard long before I thought it was threatened.

Afterward, invite deer to snack in your yard. They have discovered my ivy and are keeping it in check. Of course, they eat everything else, too.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:07 AM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cut the vines at the ground level. Then cut them again as high as you can reach. Pull them all off the trunk of the tree. The vines and leaves in the top of the tree will eventually die and fall off, but it will be kinda ugly and brown for a year or so. But you need to do it because the ivy will kill your tree. Wear gloves in case any of the vines are, in fact, poison ivy.
posted by raisingsand at 10:52 AM on May 14, 2016

Kill 'em. They'll damage the tree and send it toppling onto your house during the Arctic storms that sweep into Seattle every winter.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:11 PM on May 14, 2016

It's not just easier to pull ivy after it's dead, pulling living ivy can damage the bark / your tree. I recently killed ivy about that size and it was crispy within a week. Home composting requires regular turning to prevent it rooting, I'm putting mine in yard waste.
posted by momus_window at 5:32 PM on May 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

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