This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This is an ancient plant found in Interglacial and Neolithic beds. The present distribution is Europe, N. Africa, W. Asia as far east as the Himalayas, in the North Temperate Zone. Ivy is found in every part of Great Britain, and ascends to 1500 ft. in Yorkshire.
There are two forms of Ivy which favour different habitats. The trailing "Ground Ivy" is fond of growing upon banks, under hedges, or in woods and thickets, where it covers the ground like a carpet and occasionally finds an upright support, and may be seen to merge into the other type. This is essentially a climbing plant, and is found by the roadside encircling in parasitic fashion the trunk of an ash or elm, or in the open fields or in woods. It is especially common in gardens, and is very often found on walls and houses.
One irresistibly connects Ivy with a climbing habit, and such is its most marked feature. It may attain the dimensions of a tree, with thick cracked bark, and be provided on the inner side with fibres, which turn away from the light, of a rootlike character or holdfasts, which assist it to climb. The young branches are green or purple.
At the base the stem is thick, and may branch above in equal forks, and then twine around the trunk or climb up the wall, with numerous further branchings or ramifications. The leaves are undivided or 3-lobed, when the plant is merely Ground Ivy, or 5-lobed. This dimorphism may be due to the demand for light and air, the oval leaves growing round the stem in woods being an advantage, whilst the divided leaves growing" on the surface are arranged to fit into each other and to cover as much space as possible. The flowering branches also grow erect. In the climbing plant the leaf is oval, heart-shaped, thick, entire in the flowering branches, with white or red veins.
Photo. B. Hanley - Ivy (hedera Helix, L.)
The flowers are in simple, erect, panicled, raceme-like umbels, more or less rounded, with stellate hairs. The bracts are small and hollow. The flower-stalks are fairly long. The flowers are yellowish-green. The calyx-teeth are triangular, the calyx superior with 5 teeth. The 5 petals do not unite above, and are triangular to egg-shaped. There are 5 stamens. The disc is swollen. The ovary is 5-celled. The styles are short, united at the base, with terminal stigmas.
The berry is more or less round, black or yellow, 5-celled, 5-seeded, crowned with the calyx. The seeds are egg-shaped, 5 in a berry.
The plant may be as much as 40 ft. high. The flowers are the latest to bloom, i.e. in October and November. Ivy is an evergreen, woody creeper, or climber, and may be increased by layers.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Ivy (hedera Helix, L.)
The flowers are polygamous, and the anthers are mature first, though some plants are homogamous, the stigma and anthers ripening together. The petals are fugacious or drop, and the flower is yellowish-green. Beetles visit it as well as flies and wasps. The stamens equal the corolla, and are turned back. The anthers are divided into two nearly halfway below, and incumbent or lying down. The style is short, the stigma simple, terminal. There is abundant honey. The flowers are sterile to their own pollen.
The fruit is edible, and the seeds are dispersed by animals. It remains dormant during the winter, not ripening till the spring.
Ivy is usually a woodland climber, and is a humus-lover, requiring humus soil.
Ivy is a food plant for the beetles Ochina hcderce, Grammoptera ruficornis, Anobium striatum, Lepturus testaceus, Pogonochcerus den-tatus, the Lepidoptera Holly Blue (Polyommatus argiolus), Old Lady (Mania maura), Gothic (Ncenia typica), Swallow-tailed Moth (Urop-teryx sambucata), Tortrix forsteriana, the Homoptera Thamnotettix splendidula, Zygina tilice, the Heteroptera Schirus bicolor, Derephysia foliaceus, Ploiaria vagabunda.
Hedera, Pliny, is Latin for Ivy, and Helix, Pliny, was another Latin name for it.
Ivy is called Benewith-tree, Bentwood, Bindwoocl, Levy, Ground Ivy, Hyven, Ivin, Ivory, Ivy, Barren, Black, Creeping, Small Ivy, Wood-bind. It was called Bindwood possibly because of the hold it takes. The small-leaved form growing on banks, etc, does not flower, hence the name Barren Ivy.
This plant was said to reveal witches. "To pipe in an ivy leaf is to engage in a futile pursuit. " An owl in an ivy bush " denotes union of wisdom with conviviality. An ivy bush was a common tavern sign, giving rise to the saying, "Good wine needs no bush". It was sacred to Bacchus. In language it is the emblem of confiding love and fidelity.
According to Cornish tradition the beautiful Iseult, unable to endure the loss of the brave Tristan, died of a broken heart, and was buried in the same church, but by order of the king the two graves were placed at a distance from each other. Soon, however, there burst forth from the tomb of Tristan a branch of ivy and another from the grave of Iseult, these shoots gradually growing upwards, until at last the lovers, represented by the clinging ivy, were again united beneath the vaulted roof of heaven.
It is largely used in Christmas decorations. It is useful for ornamental work in gardens and for covering buildings, lending a picturesque appearance. The berries furnish food for birds at a time when there is little else for them to feed upon. Cattle are fond of its foliage. It was said to be a remedy for warts.
Essential Specific Characters: 134. Hedera Helix, L. - Stem climbing, with rooting fibres, leaves cordate, shiny, lobed, on flowering branches, ovate-lanceolate, flowers green, in an umbel or raceme, fruit a berry, black.