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Mike's Blog - Day 210

Boston Ivy for you today on the visitor centre north wall, Parthenocissus tricuspidata.

Here it is again in close-up.

I’m glad I took the picture yesterday as most of the leaves have now blown off as the northerly wind and rain continue.

It clings to the wall with little tendril-like structures with sticky pads on the end. These can be a bit of a nuisance as, although we trim it regularly when it gets above the brick work, if we forget we end up with these little sticky pads left behind making a mess.

I’ve no idea what it’s called Boston Ivy. It has no American link and is not an ivy but in the grape family. It’s actually native to China and Japan. I see there is a reference to it being called Japanese Creeper, but I have never heard it called that. It would make a much more sensible common name for it.

This is the plant that covers many of the buildings at Wimbledon. I thought I better just check that out and noticed they had an interesting “fact” about it on their website.

What does Wimbledon Boston Ivy have in common with the lawns?"

That got my attention.  The answer it seems is chalk. They of course mark the lines on the courts with chalk based substance and the Boston Ivy secretes calcium carbonate - chalk - which acts as an adhesive and helps it attach/bind to the wall.

A bit more digging, not of the gardening kind but of the electronic sort, reveals it’s a bit more complicated.

Darwin noticed way back in 1876 that ivy plants secrete “a little yellowish matter” when given the opportunity to cling to glass. Since then, very little has been understood as to what exactly is going on. However latest research shows that some plants have the ability to secrete “nanoparticles” of matter. The nanoparticles secreted by common ivy have been shown to consist of up to 19 organic compounds as uniform particles of about 70 nm (nanometers) in diameter.

What does that mean size wise?

Well, if my understanding is correct, there are 1 million nanometers in a millimetre. This means that if a nanoparticle secreted by Boston Ivy is similar to that of common Ivy - 70nm diameter - you would count about 14,285 per mm, so across these little pads which are about 2mm in diameter, if you work out the area using the old πr2, that means on the surface of each pad there are “about” 6 million of them. No surely my maths is wrong, or do I just have no concept how tiny “nano” means?

Somebody check my maths!