Ivy is an evergreen climber that either creeps along the ground or climbs up rocks, trees and walls, to which it holds fast with its roots. However, it is by no means,a parasite and takes neither water nor nutrients from the host plant. It may live to an age of several hundred years, the stem becoming up to 20 cm thick. Unlike other European trees and shrubs it bears flowers at the beginning of October, and the fruits ripen the following spring, in March. The berries contain 3-5 pale, furrowed seeds, which are dispersed in the droppings of birds.
It is a native of western, central and southern Europe, its range extending eastward to Asia Minor and Caucasia in continental Europe. It is found mainly in beech woods, where it grows on stony, calcareous soils or ones rich in humus; in Britain it will grow almost anywhere. Ideal for its growth are the mild winters of the coastal climate and moist air. It tolerates strong shade but bears flowers and fruits only if supplied with adequate light. It is used in parks to form a green carpet in shaded spots where turf will not thrive, and to cover walls and rocks. Propagation is by means of cuttings and seeds.
When planted in gardens both these rhododendrons should be provided with a moist soil rich in humus. The large-flowered and taller species, 2-4 m high, developed by the crossing of American and Chinese rhododendrons, are generally cultivated in parks and gardens.
The fruits ripen in September; they are edible but turn sweet only after the first frost. Inside the pulp is a hard, elongate seed which, when sown, does not germinate until the second year.
This is a warmth-loving species growing mostly in southern Europe and Asia Minor. In central Europe it exists as a relic of the warm period following the Ice Age, growing in warm, mainly limestone situations. It occurs on sunny and rocky banks or in oak stands. It thrives quite well in dry locations but requires lighter soil rich in humus.
It is readily propagated by means of seeds and winter cuttings. Because it stands up well to clipping, L. vulgare is a popular plant for hedges growing up to 2 m high, but, once widely used, has now been almost completely replaced for this purpose by the Japanese privet, L. oz;alifolium. In parks it is planted in shrubbery borders and as a shrub layer beneath groups of trees.
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