Need Some Inspiration?
Look to Nature for Ideas
Ivy is a common plant that is often regarded as a pest that overwhelms flower beds, strangles trees and damages buildings. It is the underdog of the plant world, but has a very important role and should be celebrated and valued for the pivotal role it plays in providing wildlife with food and shelter.
Ivy is an evergreen, woody climber which can grow to a height of 30m. Its climbing stems have specialised hairs which help it stick to surfaces as it climbs and mature forms can be self supporting.
It grows well throughout the UK and can be found in many habitats including woodland, scrub, wasteland and on isolated trees. It is tolerant of shade and survives in all but the most dry, waterlogged or acidic soils.
It flowers from September to November and fruits ripen in November to January, so by virtue of flowering late in the season it is important to our native wildlife. The nectar, pollen and berries of ivy are an essential food source for insects and birds during autumn and winter when food is scarce. It also provides shelter for insects, birds, bats and other small mammals. The high fat content of the berries is a nutritious food resource for birds and they are eaten by a range of species including Thrushes, Blackcaps, Wood Pigeons and Blackbirds.
Scientists have found that this unremarkable evergreen plant is one of the most important plants to provide food for bees. Honey bees particuarly rely upon ivy for the majority of the pollen and nectar they collect during the autumn months, a crucial time when they are trying to build up stores for the winter and feed their young.
Ivy provides essential food to many insects before they go into hibernation. Some of the main insect species which forage on the nectar and pollen of
ivy are Bees, Hoverflies and Common Wasps.
It is an important food plant for some butterfly and moth larvae such as holly blue butterfly.
So think before you rip out that ivy plant that has been bothering you. It has an important role to help in trying to limit the current decline in our Honey Bee and our native insect population, which has has been up to 50% in the past
25 years. Our native insects and birds need your help and the humble ivy is vital source of nectar and food during the cooler autumn and winter days.