There are two native subspecies of Ivy in the UK – one that climbs and one that spreads across the ground. There are many great examples around Otley, and at the moment the mature ones are in flower, and consequently providing valuable nectar, pollen, and then berries for insects and birds, when those things are in short supply. This morning one such plant on the north side of Leeds Road (before the roundabout) was alive with insects, and evergreen ivy provides shelter for a range of animals including small mammals such as bats. The climbers may look like they are strangling the trees they grow up, but they are harmless to them, having their own root structures, and mature plants can be self-supporting. It is a resilient plant (see my first photo!), tolerant of shade, and its ability to persist through winter has led to many cultures giving it spiritual significance. For example, in Ancient Rome it was thought a wreath of ivy prevented you from getting drunk – watch out for them down the Black Horse – and Bacchus, god of intoxication, was depicted wearing one. Ivy-covered ruins were common in the work of landscape painters of the Romantic school, such as Turner (who spent many an autumn in Otley). It is thought that such scenes represent “the ephemerality of human endeavours and the sublime power of nature”…..
Photo by Neil Griffin