Sunday, September 25, 2011

Spontaneous death of Hedera helix, Enlish Ivy !!!???!!!...Go disease

The sun came out for a few hours this afternoon, and so I went out and took a few pictures. It hasn't been out much for the last week or so. It shows its head for half an hour or so when the humidity dips below 90%, cooks recent rainfall into the atmosphere, then retreats. The tropicals, including the brugmansia (pictured above) , seem to love it. As loathe as I am to look a gift horse in the mouth, I could use a little classic fall weather: blue skies, dry air, bracing temperatures, maybe the exhilaration of a little ozone.... I know I'm whining.

I'm home today while Karen, Max, and Peter are doing a gardening job in University Park, an interesting community that almost adjoins the University of Maryland. It's mostly an upper middle class enclave with more than a handful of expensive properties. Nothing out of the ordinary, except for the reason the clients called Karen. Hedera helix, English Ivy, is dying in University Park. I went along, just as a companion, on the initial visit and had trouble believing what I was hearing and seeing. Apparently mass plantings of English Ivy have died over a three year period. They didn't just bleach, they didn't just accumulate severe leaf spots....they actually died. They're gone. Wow. What can it mean?

I tried to act sympathetic but I've spent enough of my life trying to kill H. helix that it was hard to not dance a jig at the thought that something was killing it off. After elation, my secondary reaction was skepticism. I asked questions; tried to elicit details without revealing my true thoughts. I nodded sympathetically at the though that ivy which that had covered 50+ feet of chain -ink fence for ten+ years had just disappeared without a trace. Even I had to admit that the ivy must have been more attractive than the fence was. Rusting and all. From further conversation, I learned that other properties had been affected. And that apparently the Extension Service had been consulted and had offered some sort of explanation. Nothing Googleable though. Monday I'll consult with those of my co-workers who are more attuned to the pest and disease side of horticulture. I'm crossing my fingers but I really think there's something here.


Jim Hughes said...

I live in Universtiy Park and my neighbor called me over to his yard about a year ago because he saw his English ivy dying. I had the same reaction as you, Chris, and had a hard time not sounding elated. I have convinced him that this is not a bad thing and may be a money maker if we can just bottle it and sell it to others with ivy out of control.

L_M_Brown said...

That's a lovely photo. I almost mistook it for a painting!

- L_M_Brown

MulchMaid said...

Wow, really?? I agree with Jim!

With a relatively old community like University Park, is it possible it's an age-related thing, i.e. the ivy is so old it just has to die off?

ChrisU said...

I doubt that it's age, though I suppose a gradual buildup of disease could send the health of the ivy downhill. Still, I've never seen complete die-off before. Actually, I know how hard it is to effect eradication.