Hedera L.


Classical Latin name.

Evergreen, woody, mostly climbing shrubs with clinging aerial adventitious roots and distinct sterile juvenile and fertile mature phases. Young leaves alternate, lobed or heart-shaped, hairy. Adult leaves alternate and mostly entire. Flower clusters more or less spherical. Flowers regular. Calyx 5-lobed. Petals 5. Stamens 5, alternating with the petals. Fruit a black or orange drupe.

Ivies have a cult following in some parts of the world, dating from about the 1920s, especially in America, but not at present in Australia, possibly because of the reputation of ivy as poisonous (due to saponins) and to garden escape causing damage to fences and buildings. It is used effectively as a groundcover and climber, mostly for its attractive bold foliage, especially in the range of miniature, variegated and leaf shape cultivars which are occasionally used in topiary. There are currently about 400 known cultivars of which 10-20 are readily available in Australia. Ivy is not parasitic.

A genus in need of revision. Identification is difficult, as it depends on the hair types of juvenile leaves.

The species H. canariensis Willd., and H. colchica C. Koch (sometimes available as H. colchica 'My Heart', the relationship between this and H. helix 'Ovata' being uncertain) are much less commonly cultivated.


Some medicinal uses; twigs a source of wood; young stems produce a dye.

Distinctive leaves; plants creeping or climbing; stems often with aerial roots at the nodes.

12 species from Europe and the Mediterranean to E Asia.

Rose (1980, 1996), McAllister (1988), Whitehouse (1990, 1991), Rutherford et al. (1993).

International Cultivar Register: Schaepmann (1975), Schaepmann & Schaepmann (1977).

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Araliaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 4. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 3. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

Updated by: Val Stajsic, July 2020

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kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Apiales
family       Araliaceae
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
species         Hedera helix L.