Ivy

IvyIvy — Hedera (English name ivy, plural ivies) is a genus of 15 species of climbing or ground-creeping evergreen woody plants in the family Araliaceae, native to the Atlantic Islands, western, central and southern Europe, northwestern Africa and across central-southern Asia east to Japan. On suitable surfaces (trees and rock faces), they are able to climb to at least 25–30 metres above the basal ground level.

They have two leaf types, with palmately 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 juvenile and adult shoots also differ, the former being slender, flexible and scrambling or climbing with small roots to affix the shoot to the substrate (rock or tree bark), the latter thicker, self-supporting, and without roots. The flowers are produced in late autumn, individually small, in 3–5 cm diameter umbels, greenish-yellow, and very rich in nectar, an important late food source for bees and other insects; the fruit are small black berries ripening in late winter, and are an important food for many birds, though poisonous to humans. The seeds are dispersed by birds eating the fruit. The leaves are eaten by the larvae of some species of Lepidoptera such as Angle Shades, Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Scalloped Hazel, Small Angle Shades, Small Dusty Wave (which feeds exclusively on ivy), Swallow-tailed Moth and Willow Beauty.

Ivies are very popular in cultivation within their native range, both for attracting wildlife, and for their evergreen foliage; many cultivars with variegated foliage and/or unusual leaf shape have been selected. They are particularly valuable for covering unsightly walls.

Ivies have however proved to be a serious invasive weed in the parts of North America where winters are not severe, and their cultivation there is now discouraged in many areas. Similar problems exist in Australia where the plant was originally cultivated in gardens. For example, in the coastal basins of California drought-tolerant Algerian ivy (H. algeriensis or H. canariensis) has been planted as a ground cover around buildings and highways, but it has become an invasive weed in coastal forests, and riparian areas.

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