Ivy

©Philip Precey

Cluster Fly on Ivy flower

©Nick Upton/2020VISION

Ivy

Scientific name: Hedera helix
Ivy is one of our most familiar plants, seen climbing up trees, walls, and along the ground, almost anywhere. It is a great provider of food and shelter for all kinds of animals, from butterflies to bats.

Species information

Statistics

Height: up to 20m

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

The climbing stems, glossy leaves and round clusters of berries of Ivy are a familiar sight across town and country. Growing up trees and old walls, carpeting the ground, and forming thick bushes if left unchecked, this creeping plant is not actually a parasite, as many might think, but only gets support from its host. This host might be a house, shed or a tree in woodland, but none of them will suffer for it. The yellow-green flowers of Ivy are a great source of nectar for autumn insects, such as Hornets, Honeybees and Red Admiral butterflies. Ivy also provides roosting sites for bats and birds, and a home for hibernating insects.

How to identify

Ivy is an evergreen and its glossy, oval leaves, with pale veins, can be seen throughout the year. Between September and November, look out for the yellow-green flowers that grow in rounded clusters; these are followed by black berries.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

Ivy's evergreen nature made it an especially powerful symbol during the dark winter months of times past; indeed, sprigs of Ivy and Holly were brought into houses to keep evil spirits at bay.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try planting native plants and trees to entice birds, mammals and invertebrates into your backyard? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.