Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Kenilworth Ivy

All around Byfield walls have been colonised by Kenilworth Ivy, Cymbalaria muralis*, more generally known as Ivy-leaved Toadflax. One assumes it grows on the walls of Kenilworth Castle although I have been unable to confirm this. Felicia Hemans' poem is not helpful:

                                  Heards't thou what the ivy sighed,
                                  Waving where all else has died?
                                  In this place of regal mirth
                                  Now this silent Kenilworth.

This obviously refers to the Common Ivy Hedera helix.

Be that as it may, it is certainly common throughout Northamptonshire. Its little purple snapdragon-like flowers are produced throughout the year and even on New Year's Day this year some blooms were present in Banbury Lane. 

The flowers initially face away from the wall on which the plant grows but, after pollination, they turn towards the wall so improving the chances of seed falling into a suitable crevice. If the plant's frequency is anything to go by this strategy is very successful because, since it was first recorded in Britain in 1640, this native of Southern Europe has gone on to colonise most of the British Isles. Although the blooms are much like those of a snapdragon the back of the flower is lengthened into a long tapering spur, a feature not found with true snapdragons (Antirrhinum species). 
Kenilworth Ivy, aka Ivy-leaved Toadflax.
On a wall in Byfield, 7 May, 2013

Ever since I first took an interest in flowers, Antirrhinum and Cymbalaria have been included in the Figwort Family, Scrophulariaceae. More recently however, DNA analysis has shown that they more properly belong with the plantains in the Plantaginaceae Family. By plantain I mean the small herbs of meadow and roadside in Britain, rather than the bananas also going by the same name. Changes such as this are coming thick and fast. Will I ever cope?

*  "muralis" means "of walls" 

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