Preserving Tree Alleys of Jankolovica

It is quite upsetting to see all the trees being cut down in the modern days. Croatia used to be over 50% under forests but that percentage is shrinking rather fast. But trees don’t just get cut down but they also die of natural causes. One of those causes can be common ivy or European ivy (Hedera helix L.). Even if it does not kill them, the host trees don’t not look pretty.

European ivy enveloping a cypress tree

Ivy is an aggressive invader that threatens all vegetation levels of forested areas. Ivy grows along the ground as well as into the forest canopy. Vines climbing up tree trunks spread out and envelop branches blocking sunlight from reaching the host tree’s foliage, thereby preventing photosynthesis. An infested tree will start dying and the process can last for years.


Just outside Biograd, there is a fertile valley many cannot believe it is located in Dalmatia. Many think this part, even though being less than a kilometer from the sea, looks like the flat plains of Slavonia. North Dalmatia in general, is very different than the coast in the south boasting fertile planes of Ravni Kotari and not so dramatic coastline.

This fertile valley is a product of receding Vransko jezero lake after the irrigation project was successfully implemented at the end of the 18th Ct. by local noble Borelli family. Later, in the 20th century, this region became one of the major agricultural production estates in this part of Kingdom of Jugoslavija before successfully continuing after 1945.

After the Homeland war of the 1990s, the estate was not doing good before a Croatian- American businessman bought it and continued with production of all sorts of agricultural produce. In addition, everything was renovated and improved, modernized. However, not everything was a success.

The Tree Alleys of Jankolovica

Tree alley of Jankolovica

The region was well known for shades of a gorgeous sycamore tree alleys planted before WW2. I still remember how I enjoyed that ride with my parents. It was one of the my favorite parts of Croatia for its beauty and simply a lovely drive from Kakma to Biograd.
However, the tree alley was badly damaged in the war as this area was just at the border between the occupied “Krajina” region and the coastal part of Croatia. This is the closest rebel Serbs ever got to the sea. The war operations had its effects not only on people but also on the nature.

Sycamore tree lines

But, that was not the end of destruction…

After the estate was bought, someone really “smart” decided to cut down planted tree alleys. I have no idea why but that was anything but a good idea. You see, trees don’t only have decorative purpose but they also protect the soil from winds that have some serious gusts at this flat area. Not that the smart guys who cut all the trees knew this, of course

The ivy

Not only that numerous tree alleys are cut down, but those that have survived all the trouble are not doing good and no one cares about them. Most of the sycamore trees have been attacked by ivy. The result is that most of the trees look deformed and “sick”.

Ivy is a woody stemmed, self-clinging climber that can grow quickly into the canopy of a tree. Ivy growing on trees is often thought to be a serious problem, endangering the health of even very large trees. However, its presence on the trunk is not damaging. Some think that, where it grows into the upper parts of canopy, this is usually only because the trees are diseased and slowly dying. But trees don’t look normal and no one can actually give an educated diagnosis without cutting down and removing ivy.

That is why several of my friends and I decided to help the trees get to their original glory. The process of cutting ivy is not an easy one. The ivy plant ranges from tiny sprouts to a thick, woody structure that requires serious effort to cut down.

Woody stems

When cleaning ivy from trees, it is important to remove about 3 ft (cca 1 meter) of plant between the ground and the upper section of ivy. Removing it completely, ensures that the section in the canopy of the host tree is not getting food. Here are the results.

Ivy on cypress tree
Ivy is trying to get to its upper section
Ivy on sycamore tree
Ivy is dead

Our work continues. Several dozens of trees to save!