English ivy is an evergreen climbing vine that attaches to the bark of trees, brickwork, and other surfaces by way of small rootlike structures which exude a sticky substance that helps the vines adhere to various surfaces. Older vines have been reported to reach 1 foot in diameter. Leaves are dark green with white veins, waxy to somewhat leathery, and arranged alternately along the stem. Leaf forms include a 3 to 5-lobed leaf (the most common) and an unlobed rounded leaf often found on mature plants in full sun that are ready to flower. Vines may grow for up to ten years before producing flowers. Under sufficient light conditions, terminal clusters of small, pale yellow-green flowers are produced in the fall. The flowers are attractive to flies and bees in search of late season nectar sources. The black-purple fruits have a thin fleshy outer covering, contain one to three hard, stone-like seeds and may persist through the winter if not eaten first.
NOTE: The leaves and berries of English ivy contain the glycoside hederin which could cause toxicosis if ingested. Symptoms include gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, hyperactivity, breathing difficulty, coma, fever, polydipsia, dilated pupils, muscular weakness, and lack of coordination. This feature also helps ensure effective seed dispersal by birds.
Poison ivy may be confused with English ivy in the winter because they both have hairy stems. However, poison ivy is deciduous and has no leaves during the winter time (English ivy has leaves all year round). During the growing season the three-leaved foliage and clusters of whitish berries help to distinguish poison ivy.
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