Posted by: Ross Gardner | September 14, 2019


The bane of many a gardener, ivy is, in its way, an extraordinary plant.  It is one that in the earlier stages of growth can be quite… well, not exactly fragile, but easy enough to rip from the ground, certainly when compared to the stubbornly-rooted bramble that quickly requires a spade for removal.  Yet its tenacity and perniciousness of growth are equals to its thorny counterpart.

As is often the case, the gardener’s bane may be the naturalist’s boon.  Even so, I would have to admit that for much of the year the humble Hedera helix goes mostly under the radar.  It is one of those plants that can seem to fill in the background without necessarliy drawing particular attention.  It is perhaps this very quality that when left to grow thick and dense can make it so attractive to small birds in search of an unobtrusive situation within which to build a nest.

For me however, late summer is when the ivy comes into its own.  Come September, when the days are still warm and filled with small life, but when those abundant provisions of nectar that we might associate with high summer are increasingly thin on the ground, a mass of flowering ivy bathed in sunlight can positively throng with activity.  Stand beside one and it will audibly buzz, so irresistable and sought after are its copious, if slightly inconspicuous blooms.  I have been finding myself lately lured to them, as much almost as their nectar thirsty patrons……

Syrphus ribesii 5 (scaled)

Syrphus ribesii is a common hoverfly whicg like many of the species is attracted to ivy flowers in late summer.

Chrysogaster sp. - Downs 2

Not all hoverflies are as boldly marked as the previous species, but this Chrysogaster sp. does have rather striking eyes.

Colletes hederae - Downs 2 (scaled)

The Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae) was described as new to science as recently as 1993 and hadn’t been observed on mainland Britain until 2001. Still known largely from southern England, it is however spreading northwards. It is the latest flying of the Colletes species of solitary bees.

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