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Latin name 'Hedera helix'

Colour illustration of a branch of ivy on old paper Branch of ivy mounted on a botanical specimen sheet

Botanical print and herbarium sheet of ivy, accession numbers 1990.11.375 and 1973.60.106

Ivy has been a popular winter decoration over the centuries. The custom of decorating homes in winter with ivy and evergreens dates back to pre-Christian times. Its evergreen nature represents life continuing through the winter.

It was also considered to be a symbol of woman, whereas the prickly holly was considered to be ‘male’. Like mistletoe, ivy was believed to bestow fertility. Priests in Ancient Greece gave wreaths of ivy to newly married couples, as the plant was considered to be an emblem of fidelity. When holly and ivy were put together, it was said to bring peace at home between a husband and wife for the following year. 

The images here show a print from the prints and drawings collection of the botany department at World Museum and a herbarium sheet of ivy from the British and Irish herbarium.

Botanical prints and drawings at World Museum

The prints and drawings collections of the botany department at World Museum are a valuable resource for the identification and study of plant biodiversity past, present and future. Please note that the print and herbarium sheet shown here are not currently on display.