Invasive Species Council of British Columbia

Volunteer Voice: Have a jolly Christmas, leave the Holly out of it!

December 10th, 2022

With all the good that comes with the December holiday season, it is important not to forget the harm of invasive species to our sensitive ecosystems. English ivy (Hedera helix) and English holly (Ilex aquifolium) are both species you may find adorning many a festive wreath this time of year.

While these plants may be pretty, they both have the potential to seriously harm local ecosystems, especially in developed or previously disturbed areas. Once either of these species become established in an area, they are extremely hard to eradicate and have the potential to spread both quickly and widely through the dispersal of their berries and seeds. They harm ecosystems by outcompeting native vegetation- even our great trees are not safe from being smothered.

English ivy (Hedera helix) overtaking a tree | Credit: J Leekie

The holiday season happens to be when one might find an abundance of festive decorations, so it is important to properly dispose of your ornamentals when the time comes. Bag up the plants separate from anything else, being careful not to allow any seeds or berries to escape, and take them to the appropriate landfill. Be sure to inform staff that you have invasive species to drop off.

If making your own decorations this holiday season consider using native species such as Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa), or Red elderberry (Sambucus racemose subsp. pubens). These are just two examples of native species that are so similar in appearance they are often mistaken for one another.

Oregon grape (Berberis nervosa) | Credit: Matthew Syvenky
Red elderberry (Sambucus racemose subsp. pubens) | Credit: D. Powell, USDA Forest Service,

PlantWise is a provincial program that supports the horticulture industry’s transition to become invasive-free. To learn which plants are invasive, alternatives to grow instead, and which retailers are committing to be PlantWise, visit

About the Author

Matthew Nettle was a dedicated ISCBC volunteer and member of the UVic Ecological Restoration Club. He contributed to invasive species management in a number of ways, including undertaking on-the-ground invasive species removal and writing articles to spread awareness, like this one!

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