The Holly and the Ivy: How You Can Help Save Our Parks

'TIS THE season -- glossy green leaves, bright red berries, and weavable tendrils make holly and ivy favorites for adorning mantles and tables. But did you know that holly and ivy are destroying our urban parks?

The City of Kirkland has hundreds of acres of forested park land. These forests clean our air, filter our water, reduce flooding, provide opportunties to commune with nature, and increase property values.

Look closer and you'll see that these beloved green spaces are under attack. Ivy and holly are only two of the invaders - blackberry, morning glory, and other invasive plants are slowly but surely strangling and smothering native trees, shrubs, and flowers.

English ivy is not native to the United States and has no natural predators or pests to keep it in check. It spreads by bird droppings and runners into parks and urban forests where it kills trees by climbing up the trunk and literally weighing the tree down. The result is "ivy deserts" where no other vegetation survives.

English holly and other invasive trees, such as cherry laurel, Portugal laurel, and horse chestnut, compete with native trees for light and nutrients, and are difficult to eradicate without using chemicals.

Other invasive plants include Himalayan and evergreen blackberry, which grow so thickly that native tree seedlings can't survive; and morning glory, or bindweed, a fast-growing vine that smothers plants.

The Green Kirkland Partnership was formed in 2005 to save Kirkland's forests. Since then, thousands of volunteers have spent tens of thousands of hours removing invasive plants. But it's a slow process - so far about 31 acres are being restored, out of several hundred that need help.

What can you do?

Do not plant ivy, holly, or other invasive species, and remove these plants from your yard if at all possible. If you can't remove ivy, keep it trimmed back so it can't flower and produce seeds or spread to adjacent properties. Click here for a list of invasive plants.

Help remove invasive plants from Kirkland's forests. Go the the Green Kirkland Partnership website for a list of work parties. If you've never been to one, you'll be amazed at how much fun they are.

Talk to neighbors or local businesses that have invasive plants in their landscaping, and tell them about the problem. Print out this article to give them.

Email the managers of nurseries that sell invasive plants and let them know about your concern. Ask them to offer artificial holly and ivy for holiday decorations.