Hedera helix (ivy)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Air Temperature
- Rainfall Regime
- Soil Tolerances
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Environmental Impact
- Impact: Biodiversity
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Hedera helix L.
Preferred Common Name
Other Scientific Names
- Hedera hibernica Carr.
International Common Names
- English: Atlantic ivy; common ivy; English ivy
- Spanish: hiedra; yedra comun
- French: Bourreau des arbres; Herbe de St Jean; lierre; lierre commun
- Portuguese: hera
Local Common Names
- Finland: köynneliäs muratti
- Germany: Efeu; Gemeiner Efeu
- Italy: edera
- Netherlands: klimop
- Sweden: murgroena; murgröna
- HEEHE (Hedera helix)
- HEEHI (Hedera hibernica)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Dicotyledonae
- Order: Araliales
- Family: Araliaceae
- Genus: Hedera
- Species: Hedera helix
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
DescriptionTop of page
Plant TypeTop of page
Vine / climber
DistributionTop of page
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 25 Feb 2021
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||Present, Widespread||Native|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present|
|North Macedonia||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Central Russia||Present, Widespread||Native|
|Serbia and Montenegro||Present, Widespread||Native|
|United Kingdom||Present, Widespread||Native|
|-Channel Islands||Present, Widespread||Native|
|Canada||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-British Columbia||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive|
|-Ontario||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive||Original citation: Anon. (2002)|
|United States||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|New Zealand||Present, Localized||Introduced||Invasive|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
HabitatTop of page
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed forests, plantations and orchards||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Riverbanks||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The respective chromosome numbers of H. helix and H. hibernica are 2n=48 and 2n=96, suggesting that H. helix is the more ancient species, and H. hibernica may have evolved from it via chromosome doubling or hybridization with another Hedera species. The amount of nuclear DNA is 3.6 pg (Grime et al., 1988).
Physiology and Phenology
H. helix exhibits strong heterophily and intermediate shoots and leaves are rare. If a reproductive shoot is detached and roots, it will continue to grow with leaves and shoots typical of that phase. However, 'reversion' to the juvenile vegetative phase can be induced by spraying the plant with the growth hormone gibberellic acid, and abscisic acid reverses the effects. This suggests that the balance of gibberellic acid and abscisic acid is involved in the change from juvenile to mature stage (Briggs and Walters, 1997). In Europe, at its northern, eastern and high altitude distribution limits, the species will remain at its juvenile phase (Andergassen and Bauer, 2002). Flowering and fruiting occur over a number of months with flowering taking place during autumn and early winter. On some plants the distal part of the inflorescence may bear fruits that are already fully-grown when the last flowers on the rest of the inflorescence are just at anthesis. Berry-like fruits ripen in the following spring, April to June in Western Europe (Grime et al., 1988). Germination is epigeal and it takes 6 days for 50% of samples to germinate, and is to some extent inhibited by light (Grime et al., 1988).
A combination of sexual reproduction and vegetative propagation ensures the spread of this species. Age of first reproduction is variable but can be in the region of 10 years (Reichard, 2000). Flowers are insect pollinated and are visited by a variety of insect species, many of which visit the flowers for its nectar (Proctor and Yeo, 1973). A wide number of insects will visit the flowers as they are produced aseasonally when few if any other species are in flower, provided the weather conditions are conducive. In Britain, frequent visitors include the common wasp (Vespula sp.), the hornet (Vespa crabro), the blow-fly (Calliphora sp.), the crane fly (Tipulidae), Tilupa sp. and Dilophus febrilis. However, it is probably mostly pollinated by bees (Apis spp.). Green fruits are born through the winter, ripening in early spring and are readily dispersed by a variety of birds. Up to 70% of the seeds are viable but scarification appears to be essential for germination and this is achieved when seeds pass through a bird's digestive system (Reichard, 2000). Germination mostly takes place in spring (Grime et al., 1988).
H. helix appears to be tolerant of a rather broad spectrum of environmental conditions in the temperate zone. It occurs from sea-level to altitudes of over 1000 m in Europe and has been found up to 3300 m in Bolivia (Missouri Botanical Garden, 2003). It is readily found across a variety of rainfall zones in Europe. It is often found in riparian zones but it does not grow well in areas where the water table is high and soil is waterlogged (Thomas, 1980). It is reported as growing well in acidic and basic soils (Reichard, 2000) and tolerates a wide range of soil pH, but is most frequent and abundant above pH 6 and is seldom found below pH 4 (Grime et al., 1988). In North America (Midwest and New England states) it is reported that severe winter cold inhibits its spread (Moriarty, 2001) and in late autumn, flowers are susceptible to frost (Grime et al., 1988). It is tolerant of salt deposition. The increased winter light under deciduous trees apparently allows this evergreen vine to grow rapidly upward in winter (Thomas, 1980). Although H. helix grows much better in higher light intensities, it is markedly tolerant of shade as well as drought (Thomas, 1980; Sack and Grubb, 2002). It is often considered as a nitrogen indicator species, and plant density has increased over time in forests where nitrogen deposition has increased since the late 1970s (Lameire et al., 2000).
The rootlets bear vascular-arbuscular mycorrhiza (Grime et al., 1988). In England, H. helix becomes established once a woodland canopy has been produced following tree establishment in open vegetation (Harmer et al., 2001) and often spreads from the woodland's edge (Grime et al., 1988).
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Air TemperatureTop of page
|Parameter||Lower limit||Upper limit|
|Absolute minimum temperature (ºC)||-35|
Rainfall RegimeTop of page
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Special soil tolerances
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Stem fragments may possibly be dispersed by running water but there are no documented cases of local dispersal by these means.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
H. helix is bird-dispersed although its berries are mildly toxic. This mild toxicity can prevent consumption of too many fruits in one period of foraging and regulate seed retention time, thus ensuring better seed dispersal (Barnea et al., 1993). In North America, the fruits do not provide a valuable food source for native songbirds; however, starlings, cedar waxwings, robins and Stellar's jays consume them (Moriarty, 2001) and presumably disperse them.
Vegetative material which can easily root can be readily dispersed accidentally to new suitable habitats. Careless dumping of surplus trimmings from gardens is a major risk (Auckland Regional Council, 2003) but soil movement or transport of logs bearing H. helix stems may also result in the establishment of new infestations. In the USA, recommendations have been given to the public for the safe disposal of garden clippings (Simon, 2002).
The species is widely used as an ornamental and therefore likely to be introduced more widely unless legislation is set up to prevent further introductions.
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Fisheries / aquaculture||None|
ImpactTop of page
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact: BiodiversityTop of page
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Social ImpactTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Invasive in its native range
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Highly mobile locally
- Has high reproductive potential
- Negatively impacts human health
- Negatively impacts animal health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
Uses ListTop of page
- Poisonous to mammals
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.Cultural Control
Although the palatability of H. helix to grazing animals in North America is unrecorded (Reichard, 2000), European deer species find it edible and its biomass decreases markedly when ungulate numbers are high (González-Hernández and Silva-Pando, 1996). Mammal herbivory could well decrease the plant's vigour in its invasive range.
Killing the aerial portion of H. helix, the seed-producing part of the plant, is easy and only requires the cutting of the stems around the host tree with pruning tools. However, when H. helix grows on tree-ferns, it is not sufficient to cut the stems to kill the plant. All parts of the plant must be removed as H. helix can root and sustain itself in the fibrous tree-fern trunks. The roots of young plants can be easily dug out, particularly when the soil is moist, from the ground around the base of the infected tree, whereas old individuals generally do not resprout. When the plant carpets the forest floor, individual stems can be readily pulled off the ground; however, it is essential to remove all runners. Any overlooked live shoot may restart an infestation, thus follow-up monitoring and control is essential. Small or young ivy plants can be pulled off supporting structures or trees, and roots dug out. Soil and native vegetation disturbance must be as limited as possible because this favours the establishment of other invasive species. To avoid rerooting and resprouting, all material must be carefully removed from the site and disposed of safely. If removal of the plants is not possible, all parts of the plant must be placed off the ground in such a way that they can dry out. Gloves should be worn as skin irritation may follow contact with the plant (Freshwater, 1991; Morisawa, 1999; Reichard, 2000). One form of prescribed burning has successfully been used to control H. helix. Plants and resprouts are repeatedly burnt with a blowtorch until the plant's resources are exhausted (Reichard, 2000).
The mechanical control of H. helix by cutting stems is not always successful especially if the roots of younger individuals cannot be removed. Then it is advisable to strip the bark, notch the exposed section of the vine and paint on an undiluted herbicide such as glyphosate. This combination of cutting the vine less than 20 cm above ground and an immediate herbicide application may provide better control. Metsulfuron, picloram and glyphosate have all proved successful in Australia (Anon., n.d.). As H. helix leaves are waxy, this often prevents the herbicides, especially hydrophilic compounds such as glyphosate, from permeating the leaves. Thus this plant does not respond well to herbicide spraying, even when a surfactant is added, and non-target native species may be affected in the process. When desirable native vegetation must not be harmed then the stump treatments should be used wherever possible. It is apparent that older plants are more resistant to herbicide treatment and even two applications may not kill them but just reduce growth. In the western USA, immediate spraying of triclopyr following the removal of most leaves and young shoots with a string trimmer has proved successful. However, in other instance, applications of glyphosate, triclopyr and 2,4-D have proved ineffective or unsatisfactory (Morisawa, 1999; Reichard, 2000).
There has been no attempt to identify and introduce biological control agents, and in view of the species' importance in horticulture in the USA, it is extremely unlikely that any such attempts will be made in that country (Reichard, 2000). In view of the species' near immunity to pests and diseases in its native range, prospects for biological control are limited. Prasad (2002) has reported that the use of a bioherbicide in the form of the fungus Chondrostereum purpureum has been applied to H. helix but its efficacy has yet to be ascertained.
ReferencesTop of page
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