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Home & Garden

Learning to Grow in St. Charles: Missing the ivy at a certain ballpark

Sadly, I have resigned myself to a no Cubs baseball summer. That got me to thinking about “The Friendly Confines” and watching the ivy turn a little greener at each home game. Since I won’t have that opportunity this year, I thought I would look into some facts about the plant.

Boston ivy, not to be confused with English or poison ivy, is a climbing vine often seen on the sides of homes, university buildings, and on the walls of a really great Chicago baseball outfield.

Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is a member of the grape family and comes from Asia (not Boston). Distinctive leaves are dark green in summer, turn red in fall, and drop in winter. It is a woody clinging vine that climbs walls by growing aerial roots that adhere themselves to surfaces with adhesive disks.

If anyone has tried to remove Boston ivy from a brick wall, you know it is not an easy task. It is difficult to remove and may damage painted surfaces and leave residue behind. Boston ivy has even been known to crumble mortar between bricks. The plant’s growth is aggressive and rapid, and requires pruning every spring to prevent growth into areas not desired. In other words, be careful where you plant it, if you don’t have a grounds crew to keep up with it.

On a positive note, Boston ivy will grow in sun or shade and is relatively free of disease and insect problems. It is tolerant of both slightly dry and slightly moist soil and is not negatively affected by clay. The fall color is a beautiful scarlet red.

Another note of caution, Boston ivy is not native to our area, but has naturalized to some parts of Illinois. This is concerning because the non-native vine potentially could crowd out native plants. Take care if you are planting Boston ivy, so it is not allowed to escape from your yard, as it is considered invasive if growing elsewhere.

• Darlie Simerson is a University of Illinois Extension Kane County master gardener. Email the extension office at uiemg-kane@illinois.edu for more information.

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