An evergreen climber, with a strong, rather acrid odour when crushed, attaching itself to trees, buildings, etc., by means of rootlike growths from the stem, or, where such support is absent, creeping over the ground; young shoots clothed with minute stellate hairs. Leaves alternate, thick, leathery, very dark glossy green, broadly ovate or somewhat triangular, those of the climbing shoots with three or five deep or shallow lobes and stalks of varying length. The starry hairs have five to eight rays. The ivy never flowers on the creeping or climbing shoots, but produces bushy branches, mostly when it has reached the top of its support; these have no aerial roots, and their leaves are never lobed, but are wavy in outline or entire at the margin, and more narrowly ovate. Flowers produced in October, in a terminal cluster of globose umbels, yellowish green. Berries dull inky black, globose, about 1⁄4 in. across, containing two to five seeds.
Native of Europe north as far as southern Scandinavia and east to western Russia, but in the south extending farther to the east through the rainier parts of Anatolia to the Caucasus. It is found almost everywhere in Britain, especially in shady spots, its natural habitat being the forest, where it can climb trees. The ivy, however, is very adaptable, and can be grown in almost any situation. No introduced evergreen climber can rival it for covering old trees, buildings, etc. Many think that serious damage is done to trees by allowing ivy to climb over them, but this only occurs when the ivy has reached the leafy shoots; so long as the ivy is confined to the trunk and larger branches no harm is done. An ivy-laden tree is one of the most beautiful objects of the winter landscape. On houses ivy is rather beneficial than otherwise, keeping them dry and warm.
Ivy is propagated with the greatest ease by means of cuttings which may be given gentle heat if it is desirable to get them to root quickly, or dibbled thickly under handlights or even in the open air. The more delicate highly coloured varieties are sometimes grafted on the common ivy, but need constant watching to prevent the stock over-running the scion. One of the most useful purposes to which ivy can be put is as a ground-covering under trees where no grass will grow. It is also very useful for covering iron-rail fencing, or posts and chains. As regards its use on buildings it is capable of attaining at least 100 ft in height. Leaves of ivy are eaten by horses, cattle, and sheep apparently with relish and without evil results.
There is no work that deals comprehensively with the garden varieties of the common ivy. Hibberd’s book The Ivy (1872), with its elegant descriptions and numerous illustrations, is still of some value as a source of information about the older sorts. Unfortunately, Hibberd took it upon himself to rename many of the garden varieties, on the grounds that the nomenclature, especially of the variegated kinds, was confused, or simply because he disliked the established name. In some cases the name he attempted to abolish is known and can be revived, but often this is not possible. There is no doubt that he could have ascertained the correct name for many of the variegated ivies treated in his work, had he troubled to make the attempt. Nowhere in his book is there any reference to William Paul, one of the greatest plantsmen of his generation, who had a large collection of ivies and indeed may have raised some of the varieties treated by Hibberd.
The garden varieties described below are only a selection of those now available, and are in the main confined to those sold as suitable for growing out-of-doors:
cv. ‘Adam’. – Leaves small, shallowly three-lobed or three-angled, with a regular margin of white; centre grey and grey-green. It is self-branching, i.e., the main stems produce side-branches without the need for stopping. A charming ivy, usually seen as a pot-plant, but said to be hardy. The leaves become much larger on open-ground plants.
cv. ‘Atropurpurea’. – Leaves with a long central lobe and two short laterals, but many almost entire and ovate, blackish green, darkening still further in winter and often then becoming bronze-coloured, with bright green veins (Journ. R.H.S., Vol. 12 (1890), p. 390; Garden, Vol. 25 (1884), p. 141). A very handsome ivy at Kew, received under the name H. helix purpurea, probably belongs to this variety.
cv. ‘Buttercup’. – Leaves with prominent veins, bluntly three- or five- lobed, deeply cordate, golden throughout the summer. It is sometimes sold as “Angularis Aurea”, a name which belongs properly to an older form of golden ivy, with scarcely lobed leaves.
cv. ‘Cavendishii’. – Leaves mostly 1 to 11⁄2 in. long, rather indistinctly lobed, with a broad margin of creamy white, slightly flushed with pink at the edge during autumn and winter. In cultivation by 1863. It is part of the H. helix marginata minor of Hibberd.
cv. ‘Conglomerata’. – A dwarfed, very slow-growing form, the leaves small and crowded, much crinkled and undulate. Stems stout, procumbent, slightly flattened when young.
cv. ‘Conglomerata Erecta’. – Like the preceding, this is a non-climbing ivy, but with erect or spreading stems, much flattened at first, with the young bract-like leaves arranged in two rows on the sharp edges. Mature leaves variously lobed, often folded upwards along the midrib. It is also known as H. helix minima but unfortunately Hibberd used that name in 1872 for the ivy ‘Donerailensis’, thus rendering it invalid.
cv. ‘Deltoidea’. – Leaves very distinct in shape, triangular in main outline, with rounded corners and two deep basal lobes, the inner edges of which overlap. Of stiff habit assuming a bronzy tint in autumn.
cv. ‘Digitata’. – The ivy distributed by Loddiges’s nursery early in the 19th century as H. helix digitata is probably the same as the so-called sharp- leaved Irish ivy, which the Irish nurseryman Thomas Hodgins found growing wild near his nursery at Dunganstown, then in Co. Wicklow, and put into commerce around 1825 or earlier. Leaves with five sharp, forward-pointing lobes, separated by narrow sinuses. This ivy has hairs with more numerous rays than is normal in H. helix, and was on that account considered by Seemann to belong to H. canariensis (Journ. of Bot., Vol. 3, (1865), pp. 201-3).
cv. ‘Discolor’. Sec ‘Marmorata Minor’.
cv. ‘Donerailensis’. – Leaves small, usually three-lobed, the central lobe narrowly triangular, the lateral lobes usually similar in shape to the central one, margins wavy. The leaves turn brownish purple in winter. This clone only retains its character if grown as a pot-plant, with its roots constricted. Allowed to grow freely on a wall the leaves eventually become much larger and very like those of ‘Pedata’ (q.v.). The origin of this clone is not known but it was in cultivation in 1854 and may have originated at Doneraile, Co. Cork. Hibberd in The Ivy (1872) p. 76, renamed this ivy H. helix minima, in accordance with his usual practice of rejecting all epithets derived from placenames or personal names.
cv. ‘Emerald Gem’. See under var. poetica.
cv. ‘Glacier’. – Leaves shallowly and bluntly three-lobed, mostly truncate to shallowly cordate at the base, edged with a narrow discontinuous margin of white; centre of leaf green and grey-green.
cv. ‘Glymii’. – Hibberd altered the name of this ivy to H. helix tortuosa and describes it as follows: ‘The growth is scarcely robust, and rather wiry; the leaves vary in form from regular ovate to long wedge-shaped, many of them obscurely three-lobed. The colour is a deep dull green, overspread with blotches of blackish bronze. The form and colour of the leaves are characteristic features, but they are moreover peculiarly glossy, and every one is more or less curled and twisted, the twisting increasing during cold weather.’
cv. ‘Goldheart’. – Leaves dark green, glossy, with an irregular, more or less central blotch of rich yellow; stems red when young. A very striking ivy, much more handsome when grown out-of-doors than as a pot-plant. It is also known as ‘Golden Jubilee’ and, wrongly, as ‘Jubilee’ (according to Tobler the latter name belongs to an ivy with white-edged leaves put into commercc by Messrs Hesse in 1912). A ‘tree-ivy’ with similar variegation has been raised from its adult shoots.
cv. ‘Gracilis’. – Hibberd’s description reads: ‘A light elegant plant with wiry stems of a warm purple colour, and leaves usually three-lobed, placed rather far apart, rendering the wiry stems conspicuous; the colour rather light dull green, richly bronzed in the autumn; the principal veins rise slightly in relief. The veins curl slightly, and are seldom sharply lobed. A very pretty wall-ivy or to clothe a tree-stump.’ (The Ivy, p. 67, figured on p. 66.)
cv. ‘Green Ripple’. – The plant in commerce as a pot-plant under this name has the following characters: leaves dark mat-green, slenderly stalked, central lobe very slenderly tapered, the main lateral pair similar, forward pointing, basal lobes, when present, shorter and usually blunter; base of leaf usually rounded or cuneate. It is a very elegant ivy, said to be hardy.
cv. ‘Helford River’. – A large-leaved ivy found growing wild near the Helford Estuary by George Nicholson, Curator of Kew, in 1890, and introduced by him to the collection, where it still grows. The leaves are conspicuously white-veined, variable in shape but mostly with a long central lobe and two backward-spreading laterals.
cv. ‘Hibernica’. Irish Ivy. – A tetraploid variant of the common ivy with dull green leaves 3 to 6 in. across, with usually five triangular lobes, the terminal one the largest (H. hibernica Hort. ex DC.; H. helix hibernica Hort. ex Kirchn.; H. canariensis Hort., in part, not Willd.; H. grandifolia Hibberd, in part). See also H. canariensis.
The Irish ivy is believed to descend from a plant that was found growing wild in Ireland, but it is not a native of that country in the sense of occurring wild there in significant numbers. It was already well established in cultivation by 1838, and was probably introduced some thirty years before that. It is a strong-growing ivy, useful for ground-cover beneath trees, etc.
cv. ‘Hibernica Aurea’. – Young leaves variegated with gold, some half or three-quarters golden, becoming paler by midsummer (or wholly green on vigorous plants). Paul called this ivy H. canariensis foliis aureis.
cv. ‘Hibernica Maculata’. – Leaves blotched and streaked with creamy white (H. canariensis latifolia maculata Paul).
cv. ‘Lobata Major’. – Very much resembling the Irish ivy but with a longer central lobe, separated from the two lateral lobes by narrower and sharper sinuses. Hibberd remarks: ‘In the woods of the Vale of Conway, North Wales, this form may be frequently met with’, but the cultivated plants are probably all of one clone.
cv. ‘Marginata Elegantissima’. – Leaves small, scarcely lobed, more or less truncate at the base, with a broad margin of silver. The specimen in the Kew Herbarium is from William Paul. There is an ivy still in commerce as ‘Elegantissima’ or ‘Tricolor’ which agrees with this and has leaves which become margined with pink in the autumn (Paul remarked that several silver ivies show this coloration in autumn, adding that it ‘is hardly prominent enough … to be admitted in the descriptions from the pictorial point of view’ – Gard. Chron. (1867), p. 1270).
cv. ‘Marginata Major’. See under ‘Marginata Robusta’.
cv. ‘Marginata Robusta’. – Leaves large, some of almost adult form, bluish green, with a broad margin of white (Paul, Gard. Chron. (1867), p. 1215; Hibberd, op. cit., p. 78, as H. h. marginata grandis). Plants agreeing with this are still in cultivation. ‘Marginata Major’ is similar, but the margins are yellowish white.
cv. ‘Marmorata Minor’. – Leaves speckled and blotched with white, some mainly white, with green markings (H. h. discolor Hibberd).
cv. ‘Minima’. – An ambiguous and confusing name. The H. h. minima of Hibberd is ‘Donerailensis’. The same name is also used for ‘Conglomerata Erecta’.
cv. ‘Ovata’. – A very distinct ivy, the leaves ovate, pointed rounded at the base, rich green and entire, or very slightly lobed even in the climbing state.
cv. ‘Palmata’. – Leaves strongly five-lobed, mostly truncate at the base; veins prominent beneath (Hibberd, op. cit., p. 77).
cv. ‘Pedata’. Bird’s Foot Ivy. – Leaves dark green, white-veined, the central lobe disproportionately long, narrowed at the base, often slightly lobulate; lateral lobes spreading; basal lobes, when present, backward pointing. This ivy appears to have been sold by William Paul as H. helix digitata, and it is under this erroneous name that Nicholson figured it in Diet. Gard., Vol. 2 (1886), p. 121. ‘Caenwoodiana’ is very similar and is perhaps part of ‘Pedata’ as understood by Hibberd.
var. poetica West. H. poetarum Bertol.; H. chrysocarpa Walsh; H. helix var. chrysocarpa Ten.; H. helix subsp. poetarum Nyman Poet’s Ivy. – Juvenile leaves brighter green than in the common ivy, triangular or broadly ovate with a heart-shaped base, shallowly lobed and sometimes more or less entire. Fruits yellow, slightly larger than in the common ivy. Native of the S. Balkans, Asia Minor, and W. Caucasus; naturalised in parts of Italy, probably since Roman times. The garden variety ‘Emerald Gem’ probably belongs here.
cv. ‘Russell Gold’. – Leaves greenish gold when young.
cv. ‘Sagittifolia’. – Central lobe acute, triangular (i.e., broadest at the base and not narrowed at the base as in ‘Pedata’); lateral lobes spreading more or less horizontally, basal lobes swept backward (Hibberd, op. cit., pp. 68-9). The very common house-plant grown at the present time under this name is not the same clone as Hibberd’s plant. The general shape of the leaf is the same, but the lobes are more taper-pointed.
cv. ‘Sheen Silver’. – Leaves slightly lobed, broadly margined with white; centre blue-green and grey-green.
var. taurica (Tobler) Rehd. H. poetica (?) var. taurica Tobler; H. taurica sensu Poyark. – This ivy, found wild in the Crimea, is said to differ from the typical state in the leaves on the sterile shoots being predominantly sagittate in shape and (according to Poyarkova) of a light glossy green. The fruits are of the normal colour, not yellow as Tobler surmised.