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Friday, 13 June 2014

Intriguing Plants: Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Cymbalaria muralis

Cymbalaria muralis is one of those plants that can easily be overlooked due how minute their flowers are which is a pity as it is a rather beautiful plant as well as being one with an intriguing method of propagation.
 Cymbalaria muralis is native to south  and south-west Europe from where it was brought and introduced to the British Isles in the seventeenth century. Its normal habitat is rocky terrain either on rocks, rock walls or footpaths. Its unusual method of propagation is related to how its flower stalk starts of as being positively phototrophic, moving towards light but becomes negatively phototrophic once the flowers have been fertilized. As a result the flower heads end up being pushed into crevices of the rock wall on which they are growing. This greatly increases the likelihood that the seeds will germinate and grow in their preferred environment.

The specific name muralis is Latin for "wall" and this is also reflected in some of its French, German, Dutch and Spanish names.  "Murs" being walls in French, as does "mauer" in German, "muur" in Dutch and "muralla" in Spanish. Also one of its French names "Ruine-de-Rome" might be a reference to its Mediterranean origin where no doubt it was commonly seen growing on various ruins in Rome. One of its English names "Colisseum ivy" also alludes to this and since its origin by some is given more specifically as Italy.

Binomial Name: Cymbalaria muralis
Common names: Ivy-leaved toadflax and Kenilworth ivy, Climbing Sailor, Colisseum ivy,
Devil's ribbon, Female fluellen , Ivy weed, Ivy wort, Kentucky ivy, Mother of thousands, Oxford ivy
Oxford weed, Penny leaf, Pennywort, Roving sailor, Wandering Jew, Wandering sailor, (English); Cymbalaire des murs, Linaire cymbalaire and Ruine-de-Rome (French); Zimbelkraut, Zymbelkraut, Mauer-Zimbelkraut and Eustett (German); muurleeuwenbek (Dutch): Cymbalaria muralis, picard, hierba de campanario (Spanish:
Taxonomic hierarchy: 

Order: Lamiales – 
Family: Plantaginaceae – 
Genus – Cymbalaria - 
Species: C. muralis


  • Lippert Wolfgang, and Podlech Dieter, Wild Flowers of Britain & Europe, translated and adapted by Martin Walters, Collins 2011, page 144
  • Branson Andrew, Wild Flowers of Britain & Europe, Octopus Publishing 2011, page 146

On-line sources:

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