Ivy (Hedera helix)

Ivy is a familiar plant to many of us but as one of the UK’s few native evergreens it is one that we should possibly pay a little more attention to next time we see it. It often climbs our mature trees or trails along the ground sometimes forming a dense carpet of dark green vegetation. There are many varieties but common Ivy Hedera helix has deep green leaves with creamy or pale green veins and up to five points on each. They are quite leathery, shiny, and paler coloured on the underside. The leaves grow in roughly opposing pairs on long trailing stems which would remind you of a trail of cat footprints. If you turn the stems over you will see what looks like fibrous ‘roots' which are the grippers to allow the plant to climb up walls and tree trunks. These ingenious little climbing aids both tighten around small objects and produce a glue to stick to bigger and even the smoothest of surfaces

Hedera is the generic term for ivy. The specific epithet helix derives from Ancient Greek "twist, turn".

Photo Credit: Karen Oliver, Orangefield Park

Where to find it?

You don’t have to look too hard to find ivy on the Greenway as it is thriving along our shaded riverside banks and on many mature trees. While some consider ivy to be a pest or even an invasive, this couldn’t be further from the truth with local birds and insects benefiting from its green-yellow, nectar rich flowers in autumn and purple-black berries in late winter. These are times of the year where other food sources are limited so ivy becomes very important for the native wildlife.

Photo Credit: Karen Oliver, The Hollow

It has been claimed that Ivy is a parasite strangling trees and killing them but while it is a tenacious plant it is definitely not parasitic as it produces its own energy and nutrients and draws up its own water supply from the roots in the ground.

Be Part of it…

As always send us your pictures or drawings. And if you have any requests for a future What’s Growing plant on the Greenway let us know.