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Ivy-leaved toadflax

Carlo Forte (May)

Cymbalaria muralis (Ivy-leaved toadflax or Kenilworth Ivy) is a flowering plant native to Mediterranean Europe, it was introduce to the British Isles in the 17th centaury and has since become widely naturalised.

In Italy it is known as 'the plant of the Madonna'. Growing up to 5cm tall its scientific name means "resembling a cymbal" for the somewhat rounded leaves. It commonly grows in rock and wall crevices and along footpaths where it can spread quickly.

This plant has an unusual method of propagation. The flower stalk grows initially towards the light (positive phototropism) however after fertilization usually by Bees the mature seed pod bends away from the light (negative phototropism). This results in seed being pushed into dark crevices of rock walls, where it is more likely to germinate and where it prefers to grow. Using this method of seed dispersal the plant can colonise a whole wall and is able to climb great distances.

In their native regions they have been used in salads however apparently their flavour is acrid and pungent in a similar way to cress. A poultice can be used to stem bleeding and an extract may have a use in treating diabetes.

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