To top


Taxa treated:
Our review process is web based, i.e. both drafts and close-to-final accounts are stored in our server; mistakes in linking do occur. Therefore, in case you want to refer to a treatment, be careful to include version code and date (left).
Accounts which are not accessible from our public web site should not be cited. Please note that web links are subject to change.

 © Flora Nordica

by Bengt Jonsell, Lena Jonsell and Lars Fröberg (Hydrocotyle)
(7, 20090304 - text not updated)

This treatment is very outdated; the final version is available in print.

1 Leaves simple
- Leaves compound
2 Perennial herbs; leaves peltate, blade undivided
- Woody climbers; leaves not peltate, blade often lobed
1. Hedera
3 Leaves more than once compound; ovary 5-celled
2. Aralia
- Leaves once compound; ovary 2-celled
3. Panax


1. Hedera L.

Linnaeus, Sp. pl.: 202 (1753)
Literature. Cullen & al. 1997, McAllister & Rutherford 1990, Tobler 1912, 1927.
Phanerophytes. Evergreen woody climbers with short adventitious roots on the stems. Leaves alternate, simple, palmately lobed or entire, petiolate. Flowers in umbels, actinomorphic, 5-merous, small, greenish. Fruit a drupe with separate stones.

1 Leaves usually narrower than 8 cm; trichomes of young leaves with rays parallel to the leaf surface
- Leaves usually wider than 8 cm; trichomes of young leaves projecting at various angles

1. Hedera helix L.     Map

Linnaeus, Sp. pl.: 202 (1753). - Type: Linnaean Herbarium 280.1 (LINN), lectotype sel. by Browicz, Flora iranica 102: 2 (1993).
D vedbend. F (euroopan)muratti. I bergflétta. N bergflette (eføy). S murgröna.
Stems up to 20 m, creeping or climbing; vegetative shoots with numerous, closely attached adventitious roots. Indumentum of young shoots, petioles, young blades, pedicels and sepals more or less dense; hairs stellate, white to pale brown, consisting of a short stalk with rays spreading at all angles. Leaves with usually raised, often whitish veins; petiole about as long as blade;blades on vegetative shoots palmate (but often shallowly lobed, with basal lobes less prominent), 3-8 x 4-9 cm; blades on flowering shoots ovate to lanceolate, 5-8 x 3-5 cm.
Inflorescences terminal, globose umbels, solitary or grouped in racemose panicles. Flowers mostly 10-15 in each umbel, bisexual, actinomorphic, epigynous, fragrant with a dome-shaped, nectar producing disc above the ovary. Sepals represented by 5 small teeth, surrounding the disc. PetaIs 5, free, light yellow to yellowish-green, 3-5 x 1-3 mm. Stamens 5, altemate with the petals. Ovary with five one-seeded locules and one style, protruding through the disc. Fruit globose with rests of the sepals, 5-7 x 6-9 mm, violet-black when ripe, earlier reddish-violet to dark brown. - Autumn.
2n=48 (D Sjae) [2n = 48]
Distribution. (Nem-BNem). Indigenous in the south; also cultivated e.g. in cemeteries, and a common cultivation relict. D common or fairly common in most parts but scattered in central and western VJy and most of NJy. N fairly common in coastal regions in the south and southwest to Ho. S fairly common in Öl, Gtl and coastal parts of northern Hl and BhG, else scattered to rare north to central Dls, northern Vg and eastern Srm; Upl very rare in the southeast (Ingarö).
At least in S Upl and Srm it is considered relictual; almost all occurrences there are above c. 30m of the present Baltic shoreline, i.e. along the coast of warmer postglacial periods at least c. 2500 years B.P (Fröman 1944).
Outside Norden in W, S and C Europe, the Baltic States, Macaronesia, North Africa, Near East, the Caucasus; introduced in SE North America, Australia, New Zealand.
Habitat. Shady woodland rich in nutrients and mull humus, preferably calcareous and stony; coastal woodland and scrub, groves and parks; also, and especially towards the northern limit in Norden, in open, sun-exposed places (Holmboe 1920) such as scree slopes, cliffs and karst fissures.
Biology. Sap odour disagreeable, but weak. The fragrant flowers with rich production of weIl exposed nectar are frequently visited by big Diptera like Tipulidae, and by Hymenoptera, especially wasps. Ripe fruits (present May-July) are eaten and dispersed by birds, especially thrushes. - Exposed shoots die back in extremely cold winters (Fröman 1946).
Variation. Spontaneous populations show a great variation in leaf form (size, lobing, whitish parts and length of petioles). Numerous cultivars exhibit this variation even more, see Tobler 1927, Cullen & al. 1997.

2. Hedera hibernica (O. Kirchn.) Bean     Map

Bean, Trees and shrubs hardy in the British Isles 1: 609 (1914). - Hedera helix var. hibernica O. Kirchn. in Petzold & Kirchner, Arboretum Muscaviense: 419 (1864). - H. helix subsp. hibernica (O. Kirchn.) McClintock (1987). - Described from garden material.

irlanninmuratti. N irlandsbergflette. S storbladig murgröna.

Similar to H. helix, but growing more vigorously with long internodes; new shoots often thick and succulent. Indumentum of young (but fully developed) leaves, stems, pedicels and sepals dense; hairs light yellow-brown to orange-brown, consisting of a short stalk with a number of unicellular rays lying parallel to thesurface of the leaves. Leaves with veins not or only faintly raised above the surface; petiole 1-2 times as long as blade; blades on vegetative shoots bluntly lobed, but sometimes funnel-shaped, 3-9 x 4-11 cm, sinus deep and strongly arched; blades on fertile shoots elliptic to ovate, 6-10 x 5-15 cm.
Inflorescences, flowers and fruits as in H. helix.
Distribution and habitat. Grown for ornament and occasionally escaped (with garden waste); in some localities (woodland margins, pine plantations, roadsides) persistent and spreading with running shoots within localities. D  first record Sjæ Ballerup 1891 (possibly cultivated); not with certainty escaped until 1974 (Sjæ København), now scattered in most parts but rare in NJy, LFM and Brn. S recorded as escaped and ± established in a few places; Sk Falsterbo 1984, Simris 1969, Bl Karlskrona 1913 (but Asarum 1925 probably H. helix), Klm Oskarshamn 1990’s (4 localities), Öl Runsten 1988, Gtl Rute, Vamlingbo (both 1990’s), SmI Säby 2004.
At least S Scotland, England, Ireland, C Spain and C Portugal. America.
Biology. Sap odour resinous and sweet, stronger than in H. helix. Mostly spreading on the ground and not so often climbing on trees and walls, probably because of the long internodes.

Rare casual

Hedera colchica (K. Koch) K. Koch (1859). - F kaukasianmuratti. N kjempebergflette. S kaukasisk murgröna. - Leaves to 25 cm wide, ovate-deltate, only very slightly lobed; hairs yellowish-brown, peltate, with 15-25 horizontal rays united for 1/3 to 1/2 of their length. Fruit black.
S Klm Söderåkra 1989. - Caucasus, N Turkey. - Map (not in the book).

2. Aralia L. [several specimens have been redetermined!]

Linnaeus, Sp. pl: 273 (1753).

Herbaceous perennials or spiny shrubs without roots along the stem. Leaves very large, 1 - 3-pinnate. Inflorescence a large terminal panicle of umbels. Fruit a drupe with 5 spreading styles.

Rare casuals

Aralia californica S. Watson (1876). - Unarmed, rhizomatous, perennial herb; stems unbranched, bearing only few leaves. Leaves ternate or 1-3-pinnate, papery, both surfaces green. Panicles elongated, 20-50 cm; flowers greenish white; fruits dark red to black. - [2n = 48].
D Sjæ Vig 1979. - W North America. - Map (not in the book). The specimen was redetermined!
Aralia elata (Miq.) Seem. (1868; A. chinensis auct., non L. 1753). - F piikkiaralia (pirunkeppi). N høstaralia. S parkaralia. - Deciduous, more or less spiny shrub. Leaves 1-2 pinnate, rather stiff, green above, whitish beneath. Panicles up to 60 cm, 3-4 times compound with numerous umbels; flowers creamy white; fruit purple-black. -[2n = 24].
N SF Høyanger 1994. S SmI Säby 2004, Upl Kärsö-Högholmen 1968-74. Uncertain report: Holmberg (1975) as ”Aralia sp.”, identified as Dimorphanthus chinensis. - China. - Map (not in the book).
Aralia racemosa L. (1753). - F terttuaralia. N staudearalia. S lundaralia. - Unarmed, perennial, rhizomatous herb; stems few-leaved, sometimes becoming woody in basal part. Leaves ternate or 1-2-pinnate, rather stiff, both surfaces green. Panicles 12-30 cm; flowers greenish white; fruit brown to purple. - [2n = 24].
N Øf Fredrikstad 1994. S Vsm Västerås harbour 1927. - E North America. - Map (not in the book).

3. Panax L. [The specimens were redetermined!]

Linnaeus, Sp. pl.: 1058 (1753).

Rare casual

Panax quinquefolius L. (1753). D Amerikansk Ginseng. F amerikanginsengjuuri. N amerikansk ginseng. S amerikansk ginseng. - Perennial herb with cigar-shaped stock. Leaves digitate in whorls of 3 or 4, each with 5 (rarely 3) leaflets. Umbels terminal, solitary; flowers greenish white; fruit bright red.
D Sjæ Tikøb, end of 1970’s (relic from nursery). - Map (not in the book).

4. Hydrocotyle L.

Linnaeus, Sp pl.: 234 (1753).

Rhizomatous, low perennials. Leaves stipulate, with a peltate or cordate blade. Inflorescences axillary, consisting of one or a few whorls along an axis. Fruit laterally flattened, inserted at the base, without carpophores; mericarps with 5 low ridges, in transection with a distinct inner pericarp layer; stylopodia flat and indistinct.

Taxonomy. Hydrocotyle has formerly been included in Apiaceae, or sometimes separated in the family Hydrocotylaceae. However, the genus is now transferred to Araliaceae, based on results from molecular studies (Stevens 2001 onwards). See further comments under Apiaceae.

Hydrocotyle vulgaris L.     Map

Linnaeus, Sp. pl.: 234 (1753). - Type: Linnaean herbarium 332.1 (LINN) lectotype, sel. by Reduron & Jarvis, Regnum Veg. 127: 55 (1993).
D Vandnavle. F viitasammakonputki. I vatnsnafli. N skoldblad. S spikblad.
Literature. Thellung 1926 (also ill.).
Hemicryptophyte. Rhizome 0.5-1.5 mm thick, simple or branched. Leaves erect; stipules membranous, acute or obtuse, 1.5-2.5 mm long; petiole 2.5-14(-28) cm, glabrous or with bristles in upper part; blade glabrous, peltate, almost orbicular, coarsely crenate, (1-)1.7-3.1(-4.7) x (1.1-)1.9-3.1(-5.1) cm, c. 0.9 times as long as wide.
Inflorescences 1-2 at each node, 1.8-3.9(-8.5) cm high, shorter than the leaves, with 1-3(-4) whorls along an axis, each consisting of 3-6 flowers. Flowers actinomorphic, with a membranous to greenish, 1-1.5 mm long bract, and with a 0.4-0.8 mm long pedicel; sepals absent; petals dark to light violet or almost white, usually with orange glands on the outside, 0.8-1.2 x 0.5-0.7 mm, acute; filaments 0.5-0.7 mm; anthers 0.2-0.3 mm. Fruit transversely elliptic in outline, green and ± covered with brownish glands; mericarps 1.5-1.8 x 0.5-0.6 mm, 1.1-1.3 mm thick, (2.5-)3-3.6 times as long as wide; stylopodia c. 0.3 mm wide; styles 0.3-0.6 mm, directed outwards to diagonally outwards. - Mid-summer to late summer.
Distribution. Nem-BNem. - D rather frequent in the whole area, commonest in western Jylland. S common to scattered north to BhG mainly along the coast to Askim, southwestern Vg, central SmI, the whole of Klm, Öl and Gtl; Dls Frändefors and Gestad (extinct in Bolstad, Ör and Steneby), Vg Tidaholm, Baltak and several localities along the coast of Vänern (extinct in Bällefors), Vrm Visnum-Kil, Kristinehamn, Eskilsäter and Botilsäter, Ög Östra Stenby, Kvillinge and Värna (all extinct). N Øf Hvaler (extinct), Vf Tjøme, scattered from AA Grimstad to VA Farsund, and from Ro Klepp to Ho Fedje (Langeneset). I ISu and IVe north to Borgarfjörður (near warm springs).
W Europe; scattered occurrences in NW Africa and SW Asia. Old reports from the Southern Hemisphere are due to confusion with the closely related H. verticillata Thunb.
Habitat. In sunexposed, moist or wet places, often on peaty soil. Shores of lakes and streams, fens and temporarily wet depressions, rarely sea-shores; also in more hemerobic places, such as ditches, pools, damp paths/tracks. Prefers habitats with little competition; favoured by trampling; nitrophilous?***
Biology. Presumably autogamous; stamens very small, with the anthers at the same level as the stigmata.

Rare casual

Hydrocotyle novae-zeelandiae DC. 1830. S dvärgspikblad. - Lit.: Webb et al. (1988; ill.). - Similar to H. vulgaris but generally smaller, with more branched rhizomes; leaf blades cordate, entire to lobed; flowers assembled in one head/whorl.
D Sjæ København 1964 (weed in churchyard). - New Zeeland. - Map (not in the book).


Cullen & al. (ed.) 1997: The European Garden Flora 5.
Fröman, I. 1932: De nordligaste lokalerna i Sverige för murgröna (Hedera helix L.) I. Svensk bot. tidskr. 26: 215 - 240.
Fröman, I. 1944: De senkvartära strandförskjutningarna som växtgeografisk faktor i belysning av murgrönans geografi i Skandinavien - Baltikum. Geologiska föreningens i Stockholm förhandlingar 66: 655-681.
Fröman, I. 1946: Murgrönan vid sin baltiska nordgräns under de senaste stränga vintrarna. Lustgården 1946: 75-88.
Holmberg, P.-E. 1975: Kärsö-Högholmen, en ö i Stockholms närhet med intressant neofytflora. Svensk bot. tidskr. 69: 349-358.
Holmboe, J. 1920: Bergfletten i Norge som vild og plantet. Bergens Museums Aarbok 1918-19. Naturvidenskabelig række 1:5-76.
Iversen, J. 1944: Viscum, Hedera and Ilex as climate indicators. Geologiska föreningens i Stockholm. förhandlingar 66:
McAllister, H.A. & Rutherford, A. 1990: Hedera helix L. and H. hibernica (Kirchner) Bean (Araliaceae) in the British Isles. Watsonia 18: 7-15.
Stevens, P.F. 2001 onwards: Angiosperm Phylogeny Website.
Thellung, A. 1926: Umbelliferae. In G. Hegi (ed.) Illustrierte Flora von Mitteleuropa 5: 926-1537. München.
Tobler, F. 1912: Die Gattung Hedera. Jena.
Tobler, F. 1927: Die Gartenformen der Gattung Hedera. Mitt. Deutsch. Dendrol. Ges. 38.
Webb, C.J., Sykes, W.R. & Garnock-Jones, P.J. 1988: Flora of New Zeeland 4. Christchurch.