Genus:
Hedera L.

Hedera helix L.

Common ivy is a popular ornamental, valued for its ability to thrive in shady places, provide excellent groundcover and cover unsightly walls, sheds and tree stumps. Many cultivars are available, including variegated forms that can be used to brighten shady depths of winter gardens.

[UNAL]

Bernal, R., G. Galeano, A. Rodríguez, H. Sarmiento y M. Gutiérrez. 2017. Nombres Comunes de las Plantas de Colombia. http://www.biovirtual.unal.edu.co/nombrescomunes/

Vernacular
hiedra, yedra

[CPLC]

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Distribution
Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 2700 m.
Morphology General Habit
Trepadora

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description

Common ivy is a popular ornamental, valued for its ability to thrive in shady places, provide excellent groundcover and cover unsightly walls, sheds and tree stumps. Many cultivars are available, including variegated forms that can be used to brighten shady depths of winter gardens.

Long collected for winter decorations, common ivy is associated with Christmas and frequently features in festive designs. It is also an important source of food and shelter for wildlife during winter.

Ivy is not a parasite, does not normally damage sound buildings or walls, and is rarely a threat to healthy trees. Regular trimming can prevent ivy becoming too heavy, a problem that can be exacerbated by the additional weight of rain and snow.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Hedera helix is native to western, central and southern Europe. Its distribution extends from southern Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden) in the north to Latvia and the Ukraine in the east and southeast to Bulgaria, western Turkey, Greece (including Crete) and Cyprus. It is found up to about 515 m above sea level.

Common ivy is an invasive species in Australia, New Zealand and western USA.

Description

Overview: A woody climber (liana) with distinct juvenile and mature stages, both with evergreen leaves; the juvenile stage usually has lobed leaves and rooting stems, and the mature stage has rootless, flowering shoots with unlobed leaves. Stems are purple-green.

Juvenile leaves: Dark green, leathery, 3-5-lobed, the two basal lobes reduced in size to give the typical ivy-leaf shape. Dotted with white, star-shaped hairs.

Adult leaves: Unlobed, markedly narrower on shoots exposed to light.

Flowers: Borne in spherical clusters, each held on a stalk (peduncle), with a proteinaceous scent. From September to November.

Fruits: Yellow-orange to black berries, up to 9 mm in diameter, each containing five seeds.

Hedera helix f. poetarum is a form with dull orange fruits, found in the Mediterranean and known as poet's ivy or Italian ivy.

Common ivy and wildlife

Ivy berries are a favoured winter food for blackbirds and if not eaten remain on the plant until spring, providing an important food-source for young birds. Branches and leaves of Hedera helix also provide shelter and nesting sites for birds, and a ready supply of insects can be found living on and around them.

Hedera helix flowers open late in the year (September to November) and are pollinated by insects such as wasps and moths. They are an important source of nectar and pollen for bees when other sources such as heather are not available.

Uses

Common ivy is a popular ornamental, and many cultivars are available, including non-climbing ones for ground cover and compact forms for potted plants. Being evergreen and shade-loving, ivy is perfect for winter gardens and can form an attractive covering for garden structures. Ivy was a fashionable ornamental in Victorian Britain and represented fidelity in the 'language of flowers'.

Hedera helix is frequently used in cut flower arrangements, particularly in winter displays. The custom of decorating homes with ivy and evergreens dates back to pre-Christian times when they were associated with the power of the eternal and represented continuation of life through the winter.

Early herbalists, having seen common ivy smothering grape vines, held the belief that ivy berries could counteract the unwanted side-effects of alcohol consumption. Hedera helix has in the past been used in the treatment of verrucas, warts and corns.

Ivy wood has been used as a substitute for boxwood ( Buxus sempervirens ). The glossy, cream, ivory-like heartwood is sometimes used in flower arrangements.

Young twigs were formerly a source of dyes, and it is said that a red dye can be obtained from the berries when boiled with alum.

Ivy is browsed by cattle and sometimes used as an emergency winter fodder.

Common ivy as a symbol

In ancient Rome, ivy was a symbol of intellectual achievement and ivy wreathes were used to crown winners of poetry contests. They were also given to victorious athletes in ancient Greece.

The Roman custom of hanging a branch with leaves (often ivy because it was readily available, and the leaves, being evergreen, lasted a long time) on a pole to indicate that the premises sold wine or ale spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages and became known as an alepole or alestake.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Five collections of Hedera helix seeds are held in Kew's Millennium Seed Bank based at Wakehurst in West Sussex.

Cultivation

Where ivy is grown on structures, it should be clipped over every other year to ensure the growth does not become too heavy.

This species at Kew

Many cultivars of Hedera helix can be seen growing up the boundary wall adjacent to Kew's Plant Family Beds. Common ivy and other climbers can be seen adorning the brick walls of Kew's School of Horticulture. A well-established ivy hedge can be seen around Kew's Palm House.

Dried and alcohol-preserved specimens of Hedera helix are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers by appointment. Details of some of these can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

Specimens of wood, bark, resin, seeds and fruits of Hedera helix , in addition to a wooden walking stick made from it, are held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection, where they are available to researchers by appointment.

Kew's research on the use of wild plants in England and Scotland

Research at Kew has found that wild ivy continues to be collected and sold for Christmas decorations. Kew's scientists even found one individual in England (East Sussex) using wild plants such as bulrush, ivy and plantain to produce woven rings and brooches.

Read the report 'Commercial uses of wild and traditionally managed plants in England and Scotland'

Distribution
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Crete, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom
Ecology
Woodland and hedgerows.
Conservation
Not assessed according to IUCN Red List criteria; widespread, abundant and not considered to be threatened.
Hazards

Ingestion can cause mild gastrointestinal upset; may cause skin allergy on contact or via airborne allergens.

[UPFC]
Distribution
Elevation range: 2700–2700 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Bogotá DC, Cundinamarca.
Habit
Climbing.
Ecology
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, medicinal, traditional uses.

[UPFC]
Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Materials
Used as material.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.
Use Poisons
Poisons.

Native to:

Albania, Austria, Baleares, Baltic States, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Central European Rus, Corse, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, East Aegean Is., France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kriti, Netherlands, North Caucasus, Northwest European R, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sardegna, Sicilia, South European Russi, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Turkey-in-Europe, Ukraine, Yugoslavia

Introduced into:

Alabama, Argentina Northeast, Argentina Northwest, Hawaii, Illinois, Juan Fernández Is., Kentucky, Morocco, New Mexico, New York, New Zealand North, New Zealand South, Oregon

English
Common Ivy, Common ivy, Helford River Ivy

Hedera helix L. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status Has image?
Aug 1, 2001 Oppenheimer, H. [H40102] K000568743 No
Ross-Craig, S., United Kingdom 25852.000 No
Cope, T.A. [RBG 276], Great Britain K000914282 Yes
Cope, T.A. [RBG 276], Great Britain K000914281 Yes
Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 4908], Nepal K001104188 Yes
Starr, F. [011026-1] K000568742 No
Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 4908], Nepal K001104187 Yes
Blinkworth, R. [Cat. no. 4908], India K001104189 Yes
s.coll. [s.n.], India K000810133 Yes

First published in Sp. Pl.: 202 (1753)

Accepted by

  • Allred, K.W. (2012). Flora Neomexicana, ed. 2, 1: 1-599. Range Science Herbarium, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
  • Danton, P. & Perrier, C. (2004). Liste de la Flore vasculaire de l'île Robinson Crusoe archipel Juan Fernández, Chili. Journal de Botanique Société de Botanique de France 24: 67-78.
  • Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. (2011). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 2: 1-429. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
  • Frodin, D.G. & Govaerts, R. (2003 publ. 2004). World Checklist and Bibliography of Araliaceae: 1-444. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Green, A.F., Ramsey, T.S. & Ramsey, J. (2011). Phylogeny and biogeography of Ivies (Hedera spp., Araliaceae), a polyploid complex of woody vines. Systematic Botany 36: 1114-1127.
  • Jones, R.L. (2005). Plant life of Kentucky. An illustrated guide to the vascular flora: 1-833. The universitry press of Kentucky.
  • Kral, R., Diamond, A.R., Ginzbarg, S.L., Hansen, C.J., Haynes, R.R., Keener, B.R., Lelong, M.G., Spaulding, D.D. & Woods, M. (2011). Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Alabama: 1-112. Botanical reseach institute of Texas.
  • Mirek, Z., Piękoś-Mirkowa, H., Zając, A. & Zając, M (2020). Vascular plants of Poland an annotated checklist: 1-526. W. Szafer institute of botany, Polish academy of sciences, Krakow, Poland.
  • Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014). Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide, ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
  • Van Heurck, H. & De Beucker, J.I. (1861). Antwerpsche Analytische Flora 1: 1-192. Drukkerij der weduwe Jos. Van Ishoven, Antwerpen.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state. Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542. New York Botanical Garden.

Literature

Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Kew Species Profiles

  • Dauncey, E. A. (2010). Poisonous Plants: a Guide for Parents and Childcare Providers. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Fearnley-Whittingstall, J. (1992). Ivies. Chatto & Windus Ltd, London.
  • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1997). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Volume 2 (D–K). The Stockton Press, New York.
  • Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses, 3rd Edition. Cambridge University Press, New York.
  • Mabey, R. (1996). Flora Britannica. Sinclair-Stevenson, London.
  • Rose, P. Q. (1996). The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Ivies. David & Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon.
  • Sanderson, H. & Prendergast, H. D. V. (2002). Commercial Uses of Wild and Traditionally Managed Plants in England and Scotland. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Allred, K.W. (2012). Flora Neomexicana, ed. 2, 1: 1-599. Range Science Herbarium, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
  • Danton, P. & Perrier, C. (2004). Liste de la Flore vasculaire de l'île Robinson Crusoe archipel Juan Fernández, Chili. Journal de Botanique Société de Botanique de France 24: 67-78.
  • Dobignard, A. & Chatelain, C. (2011). Index synonymique de la flore d'Afrique du nord 2: 1-429. Éditions des conservatoire et jardin botaniques, Genève.
  • Hassler, M. (2012). Flora of Rhodes. Systematic list of flora of Rhodes http://www.rz.uni-karlsruhe.de/~db111/flora/rhodos/list.php.
  • Jones, R.L. (2005). Plant life of Kentucky. An illustrated guide to the vascular flora: 1-833. The universitry press of Kentucky.
  • Jonsell, B. & Karlsson, T. (eds.) (2010). Flora Nordica 6: 1-298. The Bergius Foundaton.
  • Kral, R., Diamond, A.R., Ginzbarg, S.L., Hansen, C.J., Haynes, R.R., Keener, B.R., Lelong, M.G., Spaulding, D.D. & Woods, M. (2011). Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Alabama: 1-112. Botanical reseach institute of Texas.
  • Meyers, S.C. & al. (eds.) (2020). Flora of Oregon 2: 1-861. Botanical research institute of Texas Press.
  • Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014). Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide, ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale.
  • Wagner, W.L., Herbst, D.R. & Sohmer, S.H. (1999). Manual of the Flowering Plants of Hawai'i, rev. ed., 1: 1-988. University of Hawai'i Press, Bishop Museum Press.
  • Webb, C.J., Sykes, W.R & Garnock-Jones, P.J. (1988). Flora of New Zealand 4: 1-1365. R.E.Owen, Government Printer, Wellington.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state. Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542. New York Botanical Garden.
  • Zuloaga, F.O. & Belgrano, M.J. (eds.) (2019). Flora Argentina. Flora vascular de la República Argentina 20(2): 1-444. INTA, IMBIV & IBODA.

Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

  • Allen, D., Bilz, M., Leaman, D.J., Miller, R.M., Timoshyna, A., & Window, J. (2014). European Red List of medicinal plants. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg 10:907382.
  • Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R., & Celis, M. (eds.). (2020). Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia. v1.1. Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Dataset/Checklist. https://doi.org/10.15472/7avdhn
  • Diazgranados et al. (2021). Catalogue of plants of Colombia. Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia project. In prep.
  • Diazgranados, M., Allkin, B., Black N., Cámara-Leret, R., Canteiro C., Carretero J., Eastwood R., Hargreaves S., Hudson A., Milliken W., Nesbitt, M., Ondo, I., Patmore, K., Pironon, S., Turner, R., Ulian, T. (2020). World Checklist of Useful Plant Species. Produced by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity.
  • GBIF.org (2021). GBIF species matching tool. https://www.gbif.org/tools/species-lookup
  • GRIN (2021). Germplasm Resources Information Network from the United States Department of Agriculture. https://www.ars-grin.gov/
  • Instituto de Investigación de Recursos Biológicos Alexander von Humbodlt (2014). Plantas alimenticias y medicinales nativas de Colombia. 2567 registros, aportados por: Castellanos, C. (Contacto del recurso), Valderrama, N. (Creador del recurso, Autor), Bernal, Y. (Autor), García, N. (Autor). http://i2d.humboldt.org.co/ceiba/resource.do?r=ls_colombia_magnoliophyta_2014
  • Medicinal Plant Names Services (MPNS) v.10 (2021); http://mpns.kew.org/
  • RBG, Kew (2021). Kew Economic Botany Collection. https://ecbot.science.kew.org/

  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Kew Living Collection Database

    Common Names from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Living Collection https://www.kew.org/

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

  • Kew Science Photographs

    Copyright applied to individual images

  • Kew Species Profiles

    Kew Species Profiles
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia

    ColPlantA database
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0