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I have been interested in nature for most of my life but since I retired I spend as much time as I can exploring the nature reserves and wildlife hotspots of my adopted home, Dorset in southern England. Whilst out I record what I see and take snaps where I can (I am no photographer!) and that forms the basis of my Nature of Dorset website. When I find something new I like to research it and write about it in my nature notes, it is how I learn and hopefully you might find my notes helpful as well!

This website is for the people of Dorset interested in wildlife and for people from elsewhere interested in the wildlife of Dorset!

18 October, 2010

Ivy (Hedera helix)

Ivy (Hedera helix)
Originally uploaded by Peter Orchard
Now Ivy is not a plant I have ever had much time for; it's common, it's green, it's boring. Well that is maybe what I have thought all these years but, whilst looking for the Ivy bee, I started looking at Ivy itself.

Agreed it is common, you can find it just about anywhere, in woods climbing trees or carpeting the ground, in hedgerows, on walls and buildings, just about anywhere it has something to climb on.

It is also green! Not only the leaves but also these complex flower heads with their yellowish green colouring.

Boring? Hardly! The flowers come out in September and last through until November, a time when there are few other flowers around, and at this time it becomes a vital nectar source for late summer and autumn insects. These flowers will soon produce black berries which will feed birds and small mammals through the winter.

Ivy is not a parasitic plant but does thrive by climbing on other larger plants, trees and shrubs. The question is, does Ivy kill its host by doing this? There seems to be some debate on this. While many think it does and call for it to be cut down others say it only thrives on trees that are already dying and, because the host is producing less leaves there is more light to encourage the Ivy growth. Ivy certainly grows best on dead trees where it has both support and light.

Ivy is a very important plant in our natural system and we should destroy it at our peril!