Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The iPod and the iVy

I've been pondering on ivy again.  We have a fence that is completely covered in it which I haircut from time to time to produce an ivy hedge. This year it has been absolutely smothered in flowers with their late-season nectar bonanza.  I didn't think too deeply about this really - other than enjoying the insect life that brings the fence alive in the late summer and autumn sun.  These photos are from late September.

Meanwhile, (and there is a connection here if you hang on for a moment) I think podcasts are brilliant. They have transformed my daily drag to and fro work from mind-numbing misery to mind-broadening pleasure. Today's highlight was twenty two engrossing minutes with an ivy buff.  How glad I am that such people exist.

He recalled that it is only within recent times that ivy has flowered so prolifically here. It's down to mild frost-free weather in early winter.  It struck me that this must be in some way connected with the spread of the ivy bee in southern counties of England that a number of NH bloggers have featured this year.

Something else new for me was that there are two types of native ivy in the UK and Ireland.  None of my plant field guides refer to this at all.  Its all a bit confusing due to cultivated varieties but I think that what were previously regarded as two subspecies - common ivy Hedera helix helix and the rarer Atlantic ivy Hedera helix hibernica that clings to the western edge of the UK and Ireland - have now been given separate species status.  They can be told apart by smell apparently with the Atlantic ivy having a pleasant resinous niff.

There's more.  Why does it flower in autumn?  Because its genetic origins are in arid areas where all growth is held until the summer is over and the rains come. And it has a very short time period from flower to fruit for similar reasons.  It also cannot self pollinate which is why it works so hard to attract insects I guess. I could go on but.....for all ivy fans who missed the broadcast it is still to be found here on the BBC web site. I thoroughly recommend a listen.

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