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Araliaceae, Hedera helix, Ivy

January 4, 2010

Hedera helix, Ivy, or Common Ivy, is native to Europe, the Mediterranean, and East Asia. Today there exist many horticultural varieties.

The Ivy plant is a woody climber with creeping stems that attach themselves to objects (rocks, walls, trees) by means of aerial roots. As you can see from the photo above, Ivy does well on walls. The leaves can be either three or five lobed. The inconspicuous flowers are born in umbels, followed by black, bitter-tasting berries. The berries are both toxic and medicinal.

The dark purple, almost black, Ivy berries are considered highly toxic, especially for children. 2 – 3 berries can give rise to toxic symptoms, although, due to the bitterness of the fruit, severe poisoning is relatively uncommon. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, headache, enhanced pulse, dizziness, delirium, shock, fever, respiratory arrest, and even death.

The saponins present in H. helix are cytotoxic (cell poison), disturbing membrane permeability.

It is not uncommon that gardeners will experience a contact allergy after clipping Ivy. This is caused by falcarinol.

Extracts of the Ivy leaf are used to treat cough. Leaf extracts contain antifungal, antiparasitic, and molluscicidal properties. Extracts are also used to treat corns and to counteract the intoxicating effects of alcohol. Wood extracts can be used as emollients and are often added to skin care products for their anti-irritant effects. Similarly, wood extracts are used in anticellulitis products and lotions applied for relief of skin-disorders.

Ivy is most commonly observed today grown by humans as an ornamental plant.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 12, 2010 10:08:47 pm

    Nice article! 🙂
    Take a look at my Hedera Helix if you wish 🙂

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