- Art Gallery -

Hedera helix

Hedera helix , Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Divisio: Magnoliophyta
Classis: Magnoliopsida
Ordo: Apiales
Familia: Araliaceae
Genus: Hedera
Species: Hedera helix
Subspecies: H. h. subsp. helix - H. h. subsp. poetarum


Hedera helix L.


* Carolus Linnaeus: Species Plantarum 1: 202, 1753.
* USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. 300252

Vernacular names
Български: Бръшлян
Català: Heura
Česky: Břečťan popínavý
Dansk: Almindelig Vedbend
Deutsch: Efeu
Ελληνικά, Κυπριακά: Κισσός
English: Common Ivy
Español: Hiedra común
Français: Lierre grimpant
Galego: Hedra
עברית: קיסוס החורש
Hornjoserbsce: Wšědny blušć
Magyar: Borostyán
Íslenska: Bergflétta
Italiano: Edera comune
日本語: セイヨウキヅタ
Македонски: Бршлен
Nnapulitano: Ellera
Nederlands: Klimop
‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Eføy
Nouormand: Glléru
Polski: Bluszcz pospolity
Português: Hera
Slovenščina: Navadni bršljan
Српски / Srpski: Бршљан
Svenska: Murgröna
Türkçe: Duvar sarmaşığı, Adi sarmaşık
中文: 常春藤


Hedera helix (Common Ivy) is a species of ivy native to most of Europe, from Ireland northeast to southern Scandinavia, south to Spain, and east to Ukraine and also northern Turkey in southwestern Asia. The northern and eastern limits are at about the -2°C winter isotherm, while to the west and southwest, it is replaced by other species of ivy.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

The plant is considered invasive and destructive in parts of Australia and the United States. Its sale and cultivation is banned in several places.


It is an evergreen climbing plant, growing to 20–30 m high where suitable surfaces (trees, cliffs, walls) are available, and also growing as ground cover where there are no vertical surfaces. It climbs by means of aerial rootlets which cling to the substrate. The leaves are alternate, 50–100 mm long, with a 15–20 mm petiole; they are of two types, with palmately five-lobed juvenile leaves on creeping and climbing stems, and unlobed cordate adult leaves on fertile flowering stems exposed to full sun, usually high in the crowns of trees or the top of rock faces. The flowers are produced from late summer until late autumn, individually small, in 3–5 cm diameter umbels, greenish-yellow, and very rich in nectar, an important late autumn food source for bees and other insects. The fruit are purple-black to orange-yellow berries 6–8 mm diameter, ripening in late winter, and are an important food for many birds, though somewhat poisonous to humans. There are one to five seeds in each berry, which are dispersed by birds eating the berries.[5][2][6]

There are three subspecies:[4][5]
•Hedera helix subsp. helix.
Central, northern and western Europe. Plants without rhizomes. Purple-black ripe fruit.
•Hedera helix subsp. poetarum Nyman (syn. Hedera chrysocarpa Walsh).
Southeast Europe and southwest Asia (Italy, Balkans, Turkey). Plants without rhizomes. Orange-yellow ripe fruit.
•Hedera helix subsp. rhizomatifera
McAllister. Southeast Spain. Plants rhizomatiferous. Purple-black ripe fruit.

The closely related species Hedera canariensis and Hedera hibernica are also often treated as subspecies of H. helix,[1][6] though they differ in chromosome number so do not hybridise readily.[2] H. helix can be best distinguished by the shape and colour of its leaf trichomes, usually smaller and slightly more deeply lobed leaves and somewhat less vigorous growth, though identification is often not easy.[6][7]

Other names and etymology

Synonyms include Hedera acuta, Hedera arborea Hort. ("tree ivy", propagations of adult crown material[8]), Hedera baccifera, and Hedera grandifolia,[9] and English Ivy. The species name helix derives from Ancient Greek "twist, turn".

Cultivation and uses
It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant. Within its native range, the species is greatly valued for attracting wildlife. The flowers are visited by over 70 species of nectar-feeding insects, and the berries eaten by at least 16 species of birds. The foliage provides dense evergreen shelter, and is also browsed by deer.[5][10]

Over 30 cultivars have been selected for such traits as yellow, white, variegated (e.g. 'Glacier'), and/or deeply lobed leaves (e.g. 'Sagittifolia'), purple stems, and slow, dwarfed growth.[11]

Ethnomedical uses

In the past, the leaves and berries were taken orally as an expectorant to treat cough and bronchitis.[12] In 1597, the British herbalist John Gerard recommended water infused with ivy leaves as a wash for sore or watering eyes.[13] Because of toxins also contained in the plant, it should only be used under the consultation of a qualified practitioner.[14] The leaves can cause severe contact dermatitis in some people.[15][16]

Ecological damage

Hedera helix is considered an invasive species in a number of areas to which it has been introduced, such as Australia[17] and parts of the United States.[18] Like other invasive vines, such as kudzu, it can grow to choke out other plants and create "ivy deserts". State and county sponsored efforts are encouraging the destruction of ivy in forests of the Pacific Northwest and the Southern United States.[19][20] Its sale or import is banned in Oregon.[21] It is considered a noxious weed across southern, particularly south-eastern, Australia and local councils provide free information and limited services for removal. In some councils it is illegal to sell the plant. Ivy can easily escape from cultivated gardens and invade nearby parks, forests and other natural areas. Ivy can climb into the canopy of trees in such density that the trees fall over from the weight,[20] a problem which does not normally occur in its native range.[5] In its mature form, dense ivy can destroy habitat for native wildlife and creates large sections of solid ivy where no other plants can develop.[20]


* Media related to Hedera helix at Wikimedia Commons

1. ^ a b Flora Europaea: Hedera helix
2. ^ a b c McAllister, H. (1982). New work on ivies. Int. Dendrol. Soc. Yearbook 1981: 106-109.
3. ^ Stace, C. A. & Thompson, H. (1997). New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press ISBN 0521589355
4. ^ a b Ackerfield, J. & Wen, J. (2002). A morphometric analysis of Hedera L. (the ivy genus, Araliaceae) and its taxonomic implications. Adansonia sér. 3, 24 (2): 197-212.
5. ^ a b c d e Metcalfe, D. J. (2005). Biological Flora of the British Isles no. 268 Hedera helix L. Journal of Ecology 93: 632–648.
6. ^ a b c d Flora of NW Europe
7. ^ The Holly and the Ivy. Shropshire Botanical Society Newsletter Autumn 2000: page 14
8. ^ Bean, W. J. (1978) Trees and Shrubs Hardy in the British Isles Volume 2.
9. ^ International Plant Names Index
10. ^ Plant for Wildlife: Common Ivy (Hedera helix)
11. ^ NCCPG Plant Heritage: The common ivy
12. ^ Bown. D. (1995). Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31
13. ^ Gerard, John; Woodward, Marcus (ed.) (1985), Gerard's Herbal: The History of Plants, Crescent Books, ISBN 0-517-464705
14. ^ Medicine Chest: Ivy, common ivy
15. ^ Jøhnke, H & Bjarnason, B. (1994). Contact dermatitis allergy to common ivy (Hedera helix L.). Ugeskr. Laeger 156 (25): 3778-3779. Abstract
16. ^ Boyle, J. & Harman, R. M. H. (2006). Contact dermatitis to Hedera helix (Common Ivy). Contact Dermatitis 12 (2): 111–112. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0536.1985.tb01067.x
17. ^ Thompson, P. Poisonous and Invasive Plants in Australia. WWF-Australia.
18. ^ USDA Plants Profile: Hedera helix
19. ^ Ivy chasers in a league of their own
20. ^ a b c Controlling English Ivy Arlington County, Virginia Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Resources.
21. ^ Controlling English Ivy. Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.

Plants Images

Biology Encyclopedia

Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License