Montreat Tree Board prepares for ivy removal on public land

Ezra Maille
Black Mountain News
Public works staff member Daniel Wiggs helps the Ivy League with the invasive plant removal.

A group of volunteers in Montreat known as the Ivy League began preparation for a day of invasive ivy removal in a discussion at the Tree Board meeting on Sept. 28.  

Ann Vinson, chair of the Tree Board, said the group pulls the ivy from the ground in an attempt to cut it back from climbing up the trees. She said that given enough time, the weight of the plant will pull trees over. 

According to the board, ivy can also loosen mortar in brick and stone walls, causing structures to crumble under the weight and leading to expensive repairs. The group conducts the removal work by hand as herbicide is not an option. 

"The town does not have a license to spray chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, whatever," Vinson said. "So we cannot do that."

Montreat Town Administrator Alex Carmichael told the Tree Board on Sept. 28 that the town no longer holds a license to spray herbicide since the last time public works used such chemicals, the workers got sick. This incident was more than five years ago, and Carmichael couldn't name the type of herbicide that made the workers ill. 

Without the use of herbicide, the Ivy League works on clearing the ivy away by hand, taking stems off the trees to kill the ivy in the upper parts of the trees before it can grow out of hand. The group also removes weeds and smaller shrubs, but primarily focuses on the invasive ivy, according to Vinson. 

"If we're working around an old rhododendron that's got ivy and bittersweet and all sorts of stuff on it, we usually try and take care of all of that," Vinson said. 

A group of volunteers known as the Ivy League in Montreat works to remove invasive ivy on public land.

The board and the town Public Works Department prepared a pamphlet with recommendations for how residents of Montreat can take steps on their own property to limit the spread of ivy. 

The pamphlet suggests starting the process by cutting ivy at the base of trees so as to remove the plant's food source. This should cause the ivy to die off, allowing the vines to shed leaves and eventually drop from the trees. 

Ivy is guaranteed to return, according to the Tree Board. Homeowners are advised to check at least once a year to ensure it's under control. Fortunately, after the first removal, pruning becomes significantly easier. 

"It's beautiful if it's kept controlled," Vinson said. 

The next Ivy League meeting will take place on Oct. 19.