Hedera helix L.

English ivy, common ivy
Araliaceae
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HermaphroditeMedicinalToxic


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Hedera helix
Elena Torres & Santiago Moreno
Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

Hedera helix: Appearance of this climbing plant all year round

Appearance of this climbing plant all year roundSterile branch with palmately lobed leavesFlowering branch with rhombic leaves; bee attracted by the nectar produced in the nectariferous disk above the ovaryBranch with 6 immature berries, which are black when ripe, and many flowers that have not produced fruit yet
Etymology

Hedera: Ancient Latin name for ivy

helix: twist, turn, and Greek common name of the plant

Description

Habit: Evergreen climbing shrub that attaches to the substrate by means of dense clusters of sticky adventitious rootlets.

Leaves: alternate, persistent, 4-7 x 4-7 cm, simple, petiolate; blade with a broadly ovate outline, palmately lobed with 3-5 lobes; base often cordate, with stellate trichomes abaxially; leaves of flowering branches ovate, elliptic or rhombic, entire, usually with a cuneate base.

Flowers: hermaphrodite, actinomorphic, epigynous, small, arranged in umbels; sepals 5, very small and inconspicuous; petals 5, yellow-green, 3-4 mm long; stamens 5, free; gynoecium syncarpous, 3-5 carpellate, with an inferior ovary.

Fruit: subglobose black berry 7-8 mm in diam.

Phenology

It flowers at the end of summer or in autumn (although only very old specimens); fruits mature in spring.

Geographic origin

Native to the broad Eurasian region.

Observations

It is widely cultivated as an ornamental to cover walls, fences and the ground, especially in shady areas. The whole plant is toxic, particularly its fruits, because they contain hederin, a saponin. However, the leaves have medicinal properties and are used as an expectorant and antispasmodic agent.

It is easily propagated from cuttings.

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