ivy, name applied loosely to any trailing or climbing plant, particularly cultivated forms, but more popularly a designation for Hedera helix, the so-called English ivy, and some related species of the family Araliaceae (ginseng family). Native to Europe and temperate Asia, English ivy is a woody evergreen vine, usually sterile, whose berries contain the poisonous principle hederin. Grown in numerous varieties, it is the most popular house and wall vine. The Boston, or Japanese, ivy ( Parthenocissus tricuspidata, of Japan and China) and the American ivy, or Virginia creeper ( P. quinquefolia, of North America), are similar species of the family Vitaceae (grape family). Both are sometimes called ampelopsis, a name usually reserved for another related genus. Kenilworth ivy, Cymbalaria muralis, of the family Scrophulariaceae (figwort family) is common to old ruins in Europe; it is often cultivated as a ground cover. Ivy was sacred to Bacchus and was associated with various pagan religions. It was formerly hung as a tavern sign in England. Ivy is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida. The ginseng family ivies are in the order Umbellales, the grape family ivies in the order Rhamnales, and the figwort family ivies in the order Scrophulariales.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.