Invasive vines: English ivy & vinca minor

by Caroline Brown

Here’s the “bios” of a few more of the invasive species in our yard. These two vines are species that we planted, which is kind of embarrassing to admit. We bought them for the very reasons that they are invasive–they thrive well in shady areas where nothing else would grow.

English ivy/hedera helix. In this photo of our street, taken between 80-100 years ago, our house is the one in the right foreground that’s covered in ivy–proof of ivy’s invasive nature.

That ivy is long gone although it must have been a huge job for whoever had to pull it down. Again, ivy does OK in the shade and it’s an evergreen ground cover, so we planted some more near the house.

Here’s a photo of that same wall of the house now (taken from the opposite direction). It’s snaking its way up the retaining wall and the same side of the house and it looks so beautiful and medieval on the stone walls. But we have to be careful that it doesn’t take over and spread.

Vinca minor/myrtle/periwinkle. Another evergreen groundcover, vinca easily creeps and spreads where you didn’t plant it. A patch was already planted in the back, and the only thing holding it back in our yard is….the Norway maples, which pretty much have first dibs on the soil’s limited resources. However, in the front, as you can see in the recent picture of the house, the vinca’s doing a pretty good job of competing with the ivy. The vinca is on the ground; the ivy is on the walls.

I didn’t know any better when we bought and planted these vines. We were simply looking for an attractive evergreen to cover the ugly retaining wall and a shady patch of dirt where nothing would grow but weeds. At least I can console myself that neither ivy nor vinca have been officially designated as invasive in our state by the RI Invasive Species Council, although they are known to be invasive in other areas.


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