Windstorm damage and invasive English ivy

Shawnigan Lake – Like all residents of the south Island we witnessed with wonder the destructive power of last week’s windstorm, doing without power for a day and a half.

For those like us without the benefit of a generator it was a time to hunker down. It served also as a reminder that we are blessed to live in a part of the world where natural destructive events are few and far between, and when they do occur we have the infrastructure to quickly respond and put things back together. Thank you to all the Hydro crews and tree service people. Thanks also to Shawnigan Lake School for opening the connection which afforded the only access to the west side of Shawnigan Lake.

On another note, the front page of last week’s paper featured a photo of a large tree that fell on a house on Coronation Avenue.

One couldn’t help noticing that the base of the tree was covered with what appeared to be English ivy. This invasive plant has been with us for so long that it is taken for granted. Chances are, however, that it was as much the ivy as the storm that caused to tree to come down.

Having worked in the forest health field for 28 years I’ve had some experience with this plant pest. Though not technically a parasitic plant (it uses the tree only for support), it is a fierce competitor for the resources that immediately surround the base of the tree and, as it grows, its diffuse root system robs the tree of water and nutrients, leading eventually to the tree’s death and/or its getting toppled in a windstorm.

To rid trees of ivy one needs only to cut through all of the stems of the plant close to ground level. The aerial shoots will then die and eventually release their grip on the tree, thus facilitating removal. Any new shoots can easily be snipped while still small. Without leaves to provide energy the root system will inevitably die.

Rod Garbutt Shawnigan Lake

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