Across the rec
Nature_Garden

 Nature Notes 

 Review of 2021  

 Robins 

 Meadow Maintenance 

 Sweet Chestnut 

 Ants 

 Butterflies 

 Pesticides 

 Stag Beetles 

 Hay Meadows 

 Goat Willow 

 Crows 

 Winter Trees 

 Ivy 

 Take it easy 

 Falling Leaves 

 Horse Chestnut 

 Bats 

 Pollinator Patch 

 Bird Song 

 Dandelions 

 Garden - May 

 Garden - Apr 

 Birch Trees 

 Rotting Wood 

 Starlings 

 Mistletoe 

 Bramble 

 Hedgehogs 

 Sowing Seeds 

Refresh page This page is regularly updated, please select here to view the latest version.

Ivy - Dec 2020

 

It’s at this time of year, when other plants have died back, that our native evergreen species take centre stage. Holly, yew, mistletoe and ivy brighten our countryside, and feature prominently in folklore and midwinter celebrations.

 

But it is the ubiquitous Common Ivy that probably divides opinion most of all. This hardy creeper is the bane of some gardeners’ lives, being vigorous and tenacious. However it’s not, as often assumed, parasitic like mistletoe. Its ariel roots are used to cling to the supporting surface, but it obtains all its nutrients and water from a separate root system in the soil. So ivy doesn’t kill trees by parasitizing them, as popular belief would suggest, although it may eventually bring down old or diseased ones, owing to its size and weight; a mature ivy can reach up to 30m in height, at which point it may also crowd out the light.

 

 

This all too common plant can be seen growing around the perimeter of The Rec, and its presence is something that we rather take for granted. But it’s a species with huge wildlife value. Ivy has the unusual characteristic of taking two different forms, the juvenile and mature. The plant in its early growth prefers shady locations and produces leaves with either 3, or more usually 5, lobes. It will spread along the ground until it finds a suitable surface to climb. Rootlets then form as young growth touches the support, and the tip of the rootlet forms an adhesive pad. It’s only when the ivy reaches a certain height, age, or possibly light level, that the leaves begin to become more heart shaped. At this point the growth becomes self- supporting and begins to produce flowers and berries. The flowers are a citrus green and appear in small dome shaped clusters known as umbels. They are rich in nectar and as they ripen into berries, they turn from brown through to a dull, inky black. Each berry contains up to 5 seeds.

 

 

In terms of its wildlife value, ivy is absolutely up there with the best! 
According to the Woodland Trust, it supports at least 50 species. Ivy’s late flowering from September to November provides an invaluable source of nectar for all sorts of insects when little else is available. Wasps, hoverflies, bees and some butterflies all benefit. When you see flowering ivy next autumn, pause a while and you’ll soon discover that it’s humming with life. The berries ripen from November through to January and their high fat content makes them appealing to birds such as blackbirds, thrushes and wood pigeons. I remember some time ago, watching a number of ungainly wood pigeons precariously perched on an ivy bush as they stripped it of its berries. Ivy is also used by the Holly Blue butterfly on which to lays its eggs. Its caterpillars feed on the flower buds, as do those of sixteen species of moth. And as if that isn’t enough, the plant provides year round cover for all sorts of creatures, in which they can nest, roost and hibernate.

 

Ivy can also benefit the environment in other ways. A study done by English Heritage and Oxford University showed that walls covered in ivy kept that part of the building 15% warmer in winter and 36% cooler in summer than the rest of the building. It also helped to protect walls from frost, salt and pollution.

 

So next time you’re out and about, take a closer look at this wonder of nature. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

facebook    twitter

Friends of Portswood Rec, Southampton, UK

 

 

 

 

show menu