Ivy Hedera helix

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See September, October, November
Colour Green, Yellow
Habitat Woodland

A well-known evergreen woody climber.

Ivy is often found carpeting the ground or growing up walls and trees. Its flowers bloom in an umbrella-like spread (see photo, right). In fact the term for such a bloom - an 'umbel' - derives from the same source as umbrella - umbra, the Latin word for shade. Leaves are dark green glossy above, paler below. On flowering shoots leaves are pointed oval.

Distribution

Widespread throughout the UK.

Habitat

Woods, hedgerows, rocks and walls. Very commonly found on tree trunks.

Best time to see

Flowers September to November.

Did you know?

Ivy is, of course, celebrated with holly in the Christmas Carol of the same name. Its symbolism, however, predates Christianity. As evergreen species both holly and ivy were seen as especially powerful during the leafless days of winter. Sprigs were said to ward off evil spirits and inside the home kept the house goblins at bay. Of the two, ivy - shapely and curvaceous - was said to represent the feminine as compared to the spiky, angular masculinity of holly.

Local names include Bentwood, Bindwood, Hibbin, Ivin, Ivery and the enchanting Love-Stone used in Leicestershire.

Sadly it is no longer used for Christmas decoration. As Grigson (1958) remarks, 'A pity, because you do not have to purchase Ivy at an outrageous cost from the greengrocer, and you can fix it easily around the house, where the umbels, with or without berries, make delicious starry patterns against the wall'.

In the Highlands and Islands it has been used as protection, to keep evil away from milk, butter and the animals. Circlets of ivy alone, or ivy plaited with Rowan and honeysuckle were hung over the lintels of byres and put under milk vessels.

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