Kenilworth Ivy, a Family Heirloom

The Kenilworth flowers are 1/2 inch wide, and the leaves in all sizes up to one inch.

I started gardening 15 years ago. A year or 2 later my mother collected seeds for me off her Kenilworth ivy plants. She got her ivy seeds from her mother, who lived in Rolla, Missouri. My grandmother got hers from her mother who lived in Rensselaerville, New York. My grandmother was born in 1894. My great grandmother was married in 1886. I have no idea how long the Kenilworth ivy’s been in the family, only that it goes back to my great grandmother.

This 2-foot by 2-foot patch of Kenilworth ivy grows by our side door

Only 4 plants grew here summer before last, and I only saw 3 blooms the whole season. Then last summer the area was packed with flowering plants. I still have no explanation for why the dramatic difference from one summer to the next. Leaves dropped from the trees last fall, and many found their way in and around the ivy. The plants actually stayed green all winter. They did look frozen recently. The picture shows that they’re fine now and growing “like weeds.”  It looks like they might need a small trellis.

Kenilworth ivy (Cymbalaria muralis) originated on the walls of Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, England. The plants have an unusual way to propagate: the flower stalk is initially positively phototropic and moves toward from the light.  Phototropism is when the direction of growth is determined by the direction of the light source. It becomes negatively phototropic after fertilization and turns away from the light. This results in the seed being pushed into a dark crevice of a rock wall, where it’s more likely to germinate and where it prefers to grow.

Kenilworth ivy also likes well-drained soil, plenty of shade and cool weather. We don’t have cool summers in southern Illinois. Mine grows on the north side of the house where it receives very little direct sunlight in the summer. They’re a good plant for  stone paths,  rock walls and hanging baskets.

4 responses to this post.

  1. Once again, there is another flower I have not seen or heard of before. :-/


  2. Posted by Therese Beavers on March 23, 2012 at 6:33 am

    What a great idea—pass seeds from a plant from one generation to another! If you think about it, what a nice way to keep an ancestor’s memory alive. You and your family have much to teach other families. Thank you.


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