Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Hedera helix L.

Fully hardy, vigorous, variable, self-clinging climber or trailing perennial with 3- to5-lobed, broadly triangular glossy leaves, to 6cm long.  To 10m.  [RHSE, Hortus, Hilliers’].

Horticultural & Botanical History

An ancient garden plant.  ‘Ivy has enjoyed much poetical renown from the days of “hoar antiquity.”  It has been, perhaps, less celebrated in the recesses of its native woods, from being generally associated with the departed grandeur of noble castles and splendid abbeys, clothing their mouldering walls with a mantle of perpetual verdure.  By the ancients, Ivy was dedicated to Bacchus; the statues of the god were crowned with a wreath of this plant, and his frantic worshippers, especially at their annual festivals the [Greek] or [Greek], decorated themselves with garlands of Ivy; they also introduced it to their banquets, and had it carved on their goblets.  Homer represents his heroes as drinking from a cup made of Ivy-wood.  Probably opinion, early and for a long period entertained, that this plant was an antidote to the effects of the juice of the grape; and, even in the present day, we find that in some parts of the south of Europe, Ivy is suspended at the entrance of taverns and cabarets, as it was formerly, if it is not at present, in this country.  Thus Wilson tells us; “by the signe wee understand the thing signified; as by an iuie garlad, we judge there is wine to sel.”  [Barton & Castle - The British Flora Medica vol.2, p.50/1838].

Ivy has been a valuable plant in times past.  ‘The roots of Ivy are used by leather-cutters, to whet their knives upon.  The wood is sometimes employed by turners; it is soft and porous, and vessels made of it may be turned so thin as to transmit liquors; hence, with the ancients, according to Pliny, it had the reputation of separating wine and water when the two were mixed together, viz., by retaining the wine, and allowing the water to filter through its pores.  Bohmer states, that both the leaves and branches are useful in tanning.  A decoction of the leaves has been used to dye the hair, and to remove stains caused by ink or fruit.  The resin which exudes from the old branches is employed in the Arts, in the composition of certain varnishes, and is said to attract fish.’  [ibid. p.51].  In addition the leaves, berries and resin have found medicinal uses.

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [T.537/1843].  The common form is rarely cultivated but there are many very decorative garden varieties, including variegated and gold, silver and red forms.  Sir William Macarthur was interested in obtaining some of these: ‘MacArthur: We are unable to assist you; but doubtless the golden blotched Ivy can be obtained through the trade, if you make it worth while to inquire for it.  We believe it is not often kept, because it is no favourite, and is seldom wanted’.  [Gard. Chron. 1854]. Saint-Hilaire Tr. pl.99/1825.


Hedera helix Lowe = Hedera canariensis Willd.

Published Mar 11, 2009 - 05:22 PM | Last updated Jul 14, 2010 - 02:20 PM

Illustrated are entire ovate leaves, rounded panicles of white flowers and brown seeds.  Saint-Hilaire Tr. pl.99, 1825.

Hedera helix L. | Saint-Hilaire Tr. pl.99/1825 | BHL

Family Araliaceae
Region of origin


Common Name

Common ivy, English ivy

Name in the Camden Park Record

Hedera helix – Ivy 

Confidence level high