IVY-LEAVED TOADFLAX (Linaria cymbalaria/Cymbalaria muralis)

WIvy-Leaved Toadflax1 with flowers

Mediterranean Europe

Now a resident UK wildflower, this dainty plant from southern Europe was brought to The Chelsea Physic Garden over 300 years ago. Ivy-leaved Toadflax grows on old walls, its thin and fibrous roots inveigling themselves into crevices in dry rocky places, between pointing in brickwork, along paving stones.

The glossy leaves of Linaria Cymbalaria are purple underneath; in full sun stems, stalks and the undersides of its flowers are tinged with purple. The flowers, tiny LILAC snapdragons, bloom from May to September. They are visited by bees.

In BBC‘s The Private Life of Plants, David Attenborough describes how the flowers of Ivy-Leaved Toadflax turn to the wall on which they grow to disperse their tiny seeds. This self-seeding mechanism can be seen indoors, where Ivy-Leaved Toadflax can be persuaded to grow in a container on a windowsill.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax on Gillespie Park signboard

Ivy-leaved Toadflax on Gillespie Park signboard

Edible Ivy-leaved Toadflax

‘It is eaten as a salad, being acrid or pungent like Cress, and it was endowed with antiscorbutic properties.’

 A R Horwood

 British Wild Flowers in their Natural Haunts, The Gresham Publishing Company, 1919.



‘It has a high vitamin C content. We use the flowers and leaves mainly in salads. You can harvest for a long period of time, and its taste is a bit acrid and pungent like cress.’




Other names: Aaron’s Beard, Climbing Sailor, Creeping Jenny, Fleas and Lice, Mother of Millions, Mother of Thousands, Oxford Weed, Pedlar’s Basket, Penny Wort, Rabbits, Thousand Flower, Wandering Sailor. Muurleeuwenbek (Dutch); Cymbalaire des murs, Ruine-de-Rome (French); Zimbelkraut (German).

Ivy-leaved Toadflax in blue container clarified

Ivy-leaved Toadflax at path's edgeIvy-leaved Toadflax in Europe


 ‘This plant is a part of every medieval city wall.’ In France, ‘Clinging to the massive masonry that lifts Chateaudun above the Loire Valley, it undoubtedly felt the breath of molten lead poured on the enemy from the apertures above and received many a misdirected arrow from below.” After its introduction into Britain, it climbed the walls of Kenilworth Castle with such enthusiasm that it earned itself the name ‘Kenilworth Ivy’.

May Thielgaard Watts

 Reading the Landscape of Europe, Harper & Row, 1971.