There is a downside to all this: as ivy smothers the trunk of a tree virtually all mosses and lichens, starved of light, begin to disappear. This climber is not a parasite and does no direct damage to the tree on which it grows but about four years ago a number trees hereabouts, their crowns top-heavy with ivy, came crashing down in autumn gales, several of them blocking roads. It is not surprising that the growth should be so heavy for there are reports of ivy plants 400 years old.
Although we take ivy for granted, it is an intriguing plant, the only native representative of a largely tropical family, the Araliaceae. Many members of the family form lianas, those vines by which Tarzan made his way through
The non-fruiting foliage differs from the leaves on fruiting branches, with pale veins making some forms popular with gardeners. John Clare inevitably observed these and wrote:
Save grey-veined Ivy's hardy pride
Round old trees by the Common side,
The hedgers toil oft scare the doves that browse
The chocolate berries on the Ivy boughs.
Clare's "Shepherds Calendar", 1827
|Ivy: palmate leaves on non-flowering branches|
|Smooth leaves on flowering branches|
|26 January: some fruit is almost ripe|