Pop­u­lar­ity of Ivy as a fes­tive dec­o­ra­tion con­tin­ues to thrive


IVY and Holly are wild plants that are pop­u­larly used in Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions. Un­like many other leaves, they are ever­green and since they stay green all win­ter, dur­ing the short and of­ten dark and dreary days of mid-win­ter, they are sym­bols of the prom­ise of the green growth that we look for­ward to see­ing burst forth in spring­time.

Ivy is an At­lantic species and it grows par­tic­u­larly well in our moist Ir­ish cli­mate. As way­side trees stand bare at this time of year ever­green Ivy be­comes very ob­vi­ous. And the more ob­vi­ous it be­comes the more likely it is to prompt some­one to rekin­dle the age-old de­bate about Ivy stran­gling trees.

For years de­bate has raged back and forth about Ivy on trees. At the out­set it must be said that Ivy on trees is en­tirely nat­u­ral. Ivy evolved as a climber us­ing trees for support. Ivy climbed trees in Ire­land for thou­sands of years be­fore man ar­rived to de­bate the is­sue.

Ivy is re­mark­able in that it pro­duces tiny roots on its stems to grip onto the sur­faces it climbs. Ivy seedlings sprout in shade on a wood­land floor or in the gloom deep un­der a way­side hedgerow. The leaves need light so their in­stinct is to strug­gle up­wards to­wards the en­ergy-giv­ing Sun us­ing their lit­tle ad­ven­ti­tious roots to cling on as the plant scram­bles and climbs ever up­wards.

It is a common sight to see Ivy that has suc­cess­fully climbed a pier or a pole send­ing un­sup­ported shoots sky­ward in the hope that the wav­ing stems will touch a new sur­face to climb on.

The main pur­pose of Ivy’s ad­ven­ti­tious roots is to cling on to aid climb­ing so the roots do not pen­e­trate a tree trunk to ab­sorb wa­ter, min­er­als or nu­tri­ents. Ivy is not a par­a­site. How­ever, if the roots pen­e­trate a damp crevice on a wall they can and do func­tion as if grow­ing in soil.

While Ivy is en­tirely nat­u­ral on trees, some peo­ple feel it looks bad and re­move it for aes­thetic rea­sons. An old tree bear­ing the weight of a dense growth of Ivy is also more vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing brought down by win­ter gales. But that is also nat­u­ral; it is part of the nat­u­ral cy­cle in wood­land for old trees to top­ple to cre­ate light-filled glades in which saplings can grow.

What­ever about the pros and cons, the pop­u­lar­ity of Ivy as a source of fes­tive dec­o­ra­tion con­tin­ues to thrive.

Does ivy stran­gle trees? It’s an age-old de­bate

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