Nature on our doorsteps – Ivy, love it or hate it!
By Rosaleen Dwyer
Rosaleen Dwyer is the County Heritage Officer at South Dublin County Council – every week she gives us an insight into the natural heritage around us and the beautiful biodiversity of the plants and creatures.
Ivy evokes a mixed response from people. Some see it as a parasite, sucking life from trees as it scrambles all over them.
Others see it as a nice evergreen covering for a bare concrete wall, especially if it is one of the variegated varieties with coloured leaves.
Ivy is not a parasite. It has its own root system, using trees as scaffolding to reach up to the light so it can produce its flowers and berries.
The leaves on these flowering stems are not the familiar 3-5 pointed leaves seen on the growing stems but are oval-shaped, almost making it look like a different plant altogether.
Dense Ivy growth provides a wonderful habitat for insects and spiders, attracting birds like wrens and robins to hunt for insects or to build their nests. Where growth becomes excessive, ivy can indeed become an unwelcome weight on trees that may already be weakened by age or disease.
Ivy is particularly valuable to wildlife in autumn and winter. Coming into flower around now, its unusual looking flowers offer abundant pollen and nectar to late-flying insects.
Its purple-black berries follow afterwards.
These last well into late winter and early spring, sustaining birds at a bleak time in the year when all other hedgerow berries are long gone.