Hedera helix

Botanical Name : Hedera helix
Family: Araliaceae
Genus: Hedera
Species: H. helix
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Apiales

Synonyms:  Hedera acuta, Hedera arborea (“tree ivy“), Hedera baccifera, Hedera grandifolia, English Ivy, Bindwood, and Lovestone.

Hedera is the generic term for ivy. The specific epithet helix derives from Ancient Greek “twist, turn” (see: Helix).

Common Names :Common ivy, English ivy, European ivy, or just ivy.

Habitat : -The plant is found over the greater part of Europe and Northern and Central Asia, and is said to have been particularly abundant at Nyssa, the fabled home of Bacchus in his youth.(It ranges from Ireland northeast to southern Scandinavia, south to Portugal, and east to Ukraine and northern Turkey.
The northern and eastern limits are at about the ?2°C winter isotherm, while to the west and southwest, it is replaced by other species of ivy.) There are many varieties, but only two accepted species, i.e. Hedera Helix and the Australian species, which is confined to the southern Continent.

Description:
Hedera helix is an evergreen climbing plant, growing to 20–30 m (66–98 ft) high where suitable surfaces (trees, cliffs, walls) are available, and also growing as groundcover where there are no vertical surfaces. It climbs by means of aerial rootlets with matted pads which cling strongly to the substrate. CLICK & SEE
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The leaves are alternate, 50–100 mm long, with a 15–20 mm petiole; they are of two types, with palmately five-lobed juvenile leaves on creeping and climbing stems, and unlobed cordate adult leaves on fertile flowering stems exposed to full sun, usually high in the crowns of trees or the top of rock faces. CLICK & SEE
The flowers are produced from late summer until late autumn, individually small, in 3–5 cm diameter umbels, greenish-yellow, and very rich in nectar, an important late autumn food source for bees and other insects.
The fruit are purple-black to orange-yellow berries 6–8 mm diameter, ripening in late winter, and are an important food for many birds, though somewhat poisonous to humans.

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There are one to five seeds in each berry, which are dispersed by birds eating the berries.

There are three subspecies:

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*Hedera helix subsp. helix.
Central, northern and western Europe. Plants without rhizomes. Purple-black ripe fruit.

*Hedera helix subsp. poetarum Nyman (syn. Hedera chrysocarpa Walsh).
Southeast Europe and southwest Asia (Italy, Balkans, Turkey). Plants without rhizomes. Orange-yellow ripe fruit.

*Hedera helix subsp. rhizomatifera
McAllister. Southeast Spain. Plants rhizomatiferous. Purple-black ripe fruit.

The closely related species Hedera canariensis and Hedera hibernica are also often treated as subspecies of H. helix, though they differ in chromosome number so do not hybridise readily. H. helix can be best distinguished by the shape and colour of its leaf trichomes, usually smaller and slightly more deeply lobed leaves and somewhat less vigorous growth, though identification is often not easy. CLICK & SEE

Medicinal Uses:
In the past, the leaves and berries were taken orally as an expectorant to treat cough and bronchitis. In 1597, the British herbalist John Gerard recommended water infused with ivy leaves as a wash for sore or watering eyes. The leaves can cause severe contact dermatitis in some people. People who have this allergy (strictly a Type IV hypersensitivity) are also likely to react to carrots and other members of the Apiaceae as they contain the same allergen, falcarinol.

Culpepper says of the Ivy: ‘It is an enemy to the nerves and sinews taken inwardly, but most excellent outwardly.’

To remove sunburn it is recommended to smear the face with tender Ivy twigs boiled in butter; according to the old English Leechbook of Bald.

Other Uses:
It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant. Within its native range, the species is greatly valued for attracting wildlife. The flowers are visited by over 70 species of nectar-feeding insects, and the berries eaten by at least 16 species of birds. The foliage provides dense evergreen shelter, and is also browsed by deer.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedera_helix
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/i/ivycom15.html

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