IVY-LEAVED TOADFLAX – Cymbalaria muralis: Scruphulariaceae
The plant: The plant is seen throughout England and Wales, but less commonly in Scotland. Typically grows on rocks and garden walls, and on the sides of paths. It is a plant from Southern Europe and was probably introduced in to Britain in the seventeenth century. Grigson says that William Coys, an amateur botanist/gardener, was responsible. From that small beginning it is now a most ubiquitous plant seemingly able to grow in areas where there must be pretty well no nutrition. It is claimed to be a perennial trailing plant and, once present, is difficult to eradicate. A note of caution is needed – the United States department of Agriculture lists it as an annual. The plant does spread quickly attaining a height, at most, of five centimetres.
The flowers: Usually up to about one centimetre in greatest diameter. They appear to be five-petalled – but in fact are two-lipped: the upper is two lobed, and the lower three lobed. They are purplish in colour with a yellow centre. The plant flowers from spring to late autumn, the flowers being on a long stalk. The flowers are said to be phototropic. The flower moves towards light until it is fertilised when it turns away from the light, and the seed-pod becomes recurved forcing the seed in to crevices where it germinates and grows.
The leaves: These are stalked, ivy shaped and usually have five lobes.
Names, mythology, uses and folk-lore: Many names are given to the plant – these include creeping Jenny, fleas and lice, mother of thousands, Aaron’s beard, nanny goats’ mouths and rabbits’ mouths among many others. It is said to be especially plentiful in Oxford – hence Oxford weed, and its other main name is Kenilworth plant. I can find no herbal uses for the plant in English herbals.