Wednesday, 3 April 2013

IVY - a great habitat!

Cut ivy stems

Why DO people cut ivy off of trees? OK, on the odd occasion it can completely envelope the canopy of smaller trees such as hawthorn, which is obviously detrimental, acting too as a large sail it can also help to bring the tree down. However, in most cases ivy does not adversely affect the tree; it is simply using it as a support, that’s all!
I was out walking last evening and stopped to watch two gorgeous little long-tailed tits feeding on ivy berries, which I’m not sure I have ever seen before. Usually they feed on insects, but due to this cold blast of weather that we are all experiencing at present, I expect any self respecting insect is hidden well away and difficult to find. Ten minutes later, I came across a tree that had had the ivy cut to stop it growing, no doubt in the common belief that it would eventually strangle the tree to death.
Ivy is brilliant in the fact that it is one of the very last plants to flower in the autumn, providing nectar for some butterflies and other insects which are just about to go into hibernation overwinter as adults. It then goes on to produce berries in the late winter, when all other berries have been eaten and so provides an important food source at a lean time of year. Ivy also provides shelter during the months when most trees become leafless. The first butterfly that we often see in the spring is the sulphur yellow brimstone, which cleverly hides away in ivy overwinter; by hanging upside down it closely resembles a dying ivy leaf!
Also, a number of birds such as the little wren, blackbird, song thrush, robin and spotted flycatcher all love to hide their nests away in an ivy clad tree.
So, let’s all give ivy a break – it is a fabulous habitat for a wide range of species!

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