What’s Blooming, October 2, 2016

This week we are fortunate to have a special guest writer, pollinator enthusiast Anne Schatz, contributing to the bloom record.  Anne has been a Master Gardener since 2008.  She is also enrolled at the Journey Level in the Oregon Master Beekeeper Program and lives in Gleneden Beach.  This material is published here with her blessing.  So enjoy, everyone, and thank-you, Anne!

Hedera helix, English Ivy (boo…hiss…)

Yes, I know.  English ivy is one of the biggest villains of all the coastal invasive plant species.   We all know how it contributes to tree wind damage and death and we hear the laments of habitat destruction by those concerned with native ecosystems.  So we curse this plant.  But I’m suggesting that, for six weeks each year (late September into November), we instead embrace what we seem to be stuck with.  Because when ivy blooms, the pollinators rejoice!

Ivy blooms?  If you haven’t seen this, fret not.  To spot ivy in bloom, you have to know what to look for and then seek it out.  And only English ivy that has reached a maturity of about ten years will bloom.  So, seek out plants that have been in place for some time.  The key is to look for clustered leaves that have lost their lobes and have become sort of wavy.  Then in September, start looking for the blossoms riding above the wavy leaves.



Example of ivy growing that shows the mature leaves and blossoms on the left and the immature leaves on the right. Initially, the difference is subtle but as you practice it becomes obvious.



Ivy blossom just starting to open, with buds and wavy leaves in background.

Find a nice sunny patch of ivy blossoms.  When the blooms open and the pollinators find them, ah, that’s when the fun begins!  This is the best time to see every pollinator out there, happily frolicking in one place.  Most solitary bee species spend a few short weeks in their adult form, so as spring progresses through summer into fall, the observant eye will see a parade of species.  Each species has preferences, but the lack of other forage and the quality of the ivy as a nectar source mean that everyone shows up to this party.  Set up a chair, grab your binoculars, and settle in for the show.  And if you’re a beekeeper, you and your honeybees will be just as happy with this late season nectar flow.

One of the best places to get a good view is when ivy is used as a ground cover, particularly in a sunny spot.  And if you have one of these yourself, you can ease your conscience by trimming off the immature berries before the birds can get to them and spread the seed.

Because English ivy is so well adapted to our area, seed can sprout wherever it finds itself.  Once that seed sprouts, the plant has few predators (although I hear goats find this a nice nosh) and can out-compete most other plants.  Alternately, it is shallowly rooted and has strong stems so pulls out without too much difficultly.  The key is persistence.  Once it’s gone up a tree or structure, it must be cut away all the way around creating a bare band at least a foot wide to kill it and then must be monitored because it will grow back.

So, yes, it is a problem.  But right now, let’s enjoy the silver lining.




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