Ivy seeds and seedlings

Unless the winter is especially hard, ivy berries usually stand on the plant until the spring. And then in late March or early April, the birds start to eat them.

Ivy seeds that have passed through a bird’s digestive system look like little pink lumpy pearls…

Ivy berries and seeds at different stages: at the left, just pulled from an ivy bush by a bird; the next one fell from the bush a few days ago. The three on the right have passed through birds, with the pinkest one being the "freshest"...
Ivy berries and seeds at different stages: at the left, just pulled from an ivy bush by a bird; the next one fell from the bush a few days ago. The three on the right have passed through birds, with the pinkest one being the “freshest”…

The first few times I saw partially digested ivy berries, I had no idea what they were. I actually wondered whether they were some kind of chemically treated commercial seed that had been carried from the fields to my garden by the birds. (Seeds of food crops treated with “poisonous” chemicals need to be dyed to prevent them inadvertently entering the food chain: pinky-reds and purples seem to be favourite colours for this.)

But then I paid a little more attention and realised that these pinky pearls appearing everywhere were actually partially digested ivy seeds.

After a few days in the rain, the pinky colour fades to pearly white. And after a few more days, if you’re not vigilant, a vigorous little root will be wriggling down into the soil, very shortly joined by tenacious lateral roots and seed leaves.

Ivy berries, seeds and a young seedling.
Ivy berries, seeds and a young seedling.

Like most seedlings, the seed leaves look nothing like the adult leaves: for ivy, they’re very rounded and often quite a dull colour.

Ivy is important for wildlife, but it’s also a bit of a thug and can be tiresome to get rid of if it starts off growing in the wrong place. So it’s worth watching out for these little pink pearls delivered by the birds and making sure they don’t establish themselves where you don’t want them.

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