English ivy was brought to North America by settlers from Europe. It is used mainly as an ornamental vine in landscaping and can be found in the wild. English ivy is an invasive plant that overruns areas quickly if not controlled. Like many types of vine, English ivy has toxins within it that can adversely affect animals and humans. This vine also harbors bacteria and other pathogens that can kill other plants.
English ivy is a climbing evergreen plant from the ginseng family. The leaves are identified by their waxy dark green color and three-lobed heart shape. The vines are gray but can have white stripes and can reach diameters of 10 inches. The bark can be gnarled and bumpy. The flowers are small having a pale green color. Fruit arrives in spring with a black color.
English ivy sap contains two chemicals that cause contact dermatitis in people who have sensitive skin. These chemicals are called saponins, which are found in the leaves and fruit of the ivy. Problems arise generally after pruning of the vine. Blisters and lesions that occur may not respond quickly to treatment. Other symptoms of poisoning include coma, breathing trouble, vomiting, convulsions and spasms, diarrhea and potential paralysis.
Animals suffer toxic effects from English ivy. Ingesting any parts of the ivy can cause short-term vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, spasms and paralysis. The cause is from glycosides found in the leaves.
This vine is invasive and can dominate areas where it is found through various methods. While the ivy itself is not toxic to trees, the pathogen xylella uses the ivy as a host to infect elms, oaks and maple trees; this produces leaf scorch.
Symptoms directly caused by the toxins in English ivy can be treated with various methods. Anti-vomiting agents can help with internal issues; calamine lotion and cold compresses can help treat contact dermatitis and blistering.