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City of Fayetteville lists bounty on English ivy

The city of Fayetteville is once again enlisting the help of bounty hunters to tackle the threat of invasive species. However, those attempting to collect might want to locate pruning shears rather than a battering ram to gather the reward. The city’s 2024 Invasive Plant Bounty has placed the nonnative vine, English Ivy, in the sights of gardeners and environmentalists alike.

Throughout March and early April, if you cut down any English ivy on your property and send a picture of the remains to Fayetteville urban forester John Scott, he will then reward you with a native tree or shrub. Scott said they chose English ivy as this year’s target because of its unassuming reputation.

“It has the ability to take down a full grown mature tree,” Scott said. “So I just kind of saw it hiking recently, and it's been on my mind, and it's also one of those plants that people think is just, you know, a harmless little half plant or something. And they don't give it much thought, and you know, they don't think much about vines being invasive as well, but they are. There are several vines that are really invasive. And this is just our first vine that we've focused on. We do remove them actively with invasive species programs, and there are three of them on our invasive species list. But I wanted to focus on the English ivy because it seems to have a reputation of being a harmless little houseplant when it is not when it's grown outside.”

The evergreen vine is a common sight in gardens across the U.S. It has a tenacious urge to climb any structure it creeps upon, including trees, walls and fences. If and when the ivy finds a tree, it will begin to climb the trunk, encasing it in its own thick, woody branches. The English ivy may kill the tree by stealing sunlight or weakening its structural integrity, causing the tree to topple over.

English ivy may also cover fences and the outer walls of buildings, which can lead to aesthetic or structural damage.

Scott said that even though the bounty is on English ivy this spring, the program is meant to educate people about all kinds of invasive species present in northwest Arkansas.

“Right now, looking around outside, you can see the Bradford pears are just, you know, they look beautiful,” Scott said. “However, they're very invasive, and it's very evident at that time of year how bad the invasive plant problem is. Especially if you get outside and walk any of our trails on the Greenway or in our parks, you can see the first things that are starting to leaf out are bush honeysuckle, and the first thing that is blooming right now are the Bradford pear, so right now's a great time to talk about it and to highlight the problems with invasive plant species.”

Remember: these plants are wanted dead, not alive. You can email pictures of chopped English Ivy to Urban Forester John Scott at urbanforestry@fayetteville-ar.gov with your name, address and phone number to receive one tree or shrub per household. Native trees will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis.

More information about the 2024 invasive plant bounty and all of Fayetteville’s outdoor education initiatives.

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Jack Travis is a reporter for <i>Ozarks at Large</i>.<br/>
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