English ivy

English ivy

Hedera helix

Common Name:

English ivy

Scientific Name:

Hedera helix

Alternative common names:

Engelse hedera (Afrikaans).


English ivy is an evergreen climbing vine. It is an aggressive invader that threatens all vegetation levels of forested and open areas, growing along the ground as well as into the forest canopy. It is widely used as a fast-growing, low maintenance, evergreen groundcover and climber but, once established at a site, it can be expected to move beyond its intended borders by vegetative means or by seed dispersal.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Europe, North Africa and eastern Asia.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 3. Sterile cultivars or hybrids are not listed.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Western Cape.

How does it spread?

Seeds are dispersed to new areas primarily by birds, which eat the berries.

Why is it a problem?

The impacts of English ivy include a decrease in indigenous vegetation and the loss of biodiversity. The dense growth and abundant leaves, which spring from the stems like small umbrellas, form a thick canopy just above the ground and prevent sunlight from reaching other plants.

What does it look like?

Leaves: Alternate, three- to five-lobed leaves are produced on climbing stems. The leaves are a dark, glossy green, with silvery white veins, leathery and non-lobed on flowering stems.

Flowers: Yellowish-green, 8-10mm in diameter, symmetrical and appearing in a rounded umbel. Flowers appear from March to July.

Fruit/seeds: Fruits are black and fleshy and five-seeded.

Does the plant have any uses?

It is widely used by homeowners, horticulturists, landscape contractors, parks departments and others who desire a fast-growing, low maintenance, evergreen ground cover or climber.

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