This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The comparatively recent introduction of this plant into the British Isles precludes its being ancient in this region. It is found to-day in the N. Temperate Zone from Holland southwards, except in Turkey. It was introduced into England from abroad to the Chelsea Botanic Gardens, whence it has spread all over the kingdom. As an alien its distribution is uncertain, but the plant is generally distributed.
Ivy-leaved Toad Flax has now been introduced long enough to have established itself in many places. It is fond of growing on walls, especially garden walls or terraces. It hangs down from the interstices between the stones of church towers, and covers the sides of houses, often trailing over the ground but always near houses.
The root is thin and fibrous, with a knack of finding its way into the crevices of walls and other inaccessible places. The stem is very characteristic, being trailing, tufted, limp, purple and stringy, rooting at intervals. The leaves are ivy-shaped, round, on long terete leaf-stalks.
The flowers are light-blue, axillary, and solitary, on long, smooth flower-stalks. The lobes of the calyx are lance-shaped, and do not fall. The corolla is gaping, with a short tube, and yellow palate which closes the tube. The mouth is yellow and hairy. The nectary is purple, as long as the calyx. There are 4 anther-stalks, with white anthers. The capsule is globose, with black, ridged, wrinkled seeds. The plant grows to a length of 2-3 ft., but is only some 3 in. high. It flowers in May right up till November. The plant is perennial, freely multiplying spontaneously by division of the root.
Photo. Flatters & Garnett - Ivy-leaved Toad Flax (Linaria Cymbalaria, Mill.)
The stamens and pistil mature at the same time. The corolla-tube is spurred. There are four fertile stamens, one absent or abortive. The anthers are oblong. The stigma is notched. The flowers are often cleistogamic. It is visited only by bees. The palate nearly closes the throat and does not project. The nectary is purple and as long as the calyx. When in flower it pushes itself out into the light and sun, but when the seeds are mature it buries the capsules in the cracks between stones on which it grows, so that the seed is dispersed by an automatic psychic motion of the plant itself.
Linaria, Tournefort, is from the flax-like foliage, Linum. The application of toad arose from the name bubonium being changed to bufonium. Cymbalaria, Mathiolus, is from the Latin cymbalum, cymbal.
This graceful plant is called Aaron's Beard, Climbing Sailor, Creeping Jenny, Ivy-wort, Mother of Millions, Mother of Thousands, Oxford Weed, Pedlar's Basket, Penny Wort, Rabbits, Rambling Sailor, Roving Jenny or Roving Sailor, Thousand Flower, Wandering Jew, Wandering Sailor. Parkinson's reason for calling it Ivywort is stated thus: "We may call it in English either Iviewort or the Ivie-like leaf as it is in the title".
It is eaten as a salad, being acrid or pungent like Cress, and it was endowed with antiscorbutic properties. It is a common garden flower planted on rockeries, etc.
Essential Specific Characters: 227. Linaria Cymbalaria, Mill. - Stem long, trailing, purplish, leaves cordate, lobed, glabrous, flowers blue, axillary, on long peduncles.