Leading article: Ivy league

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The Independent Online

Ivy, like nettles, gets a bad rap. Nettles are a "weed", and sting, so they need to be pulled up in gardens. Ivy ruins houses, and needs to be pulled off before it wrecks the brickwork. This view of ivy as a nuisance and destroyer, the plant world's answer to dental caries, has even spread into poetry. "The stateliest building man can raise/Is the Ivy's food", Dickens wrote.

But ivy doesn't eat buildings. As we report, research from Oxford University suggests it has the opposite effect on brickwork, shielding it from damaging exposure to temperature change. Nature-lovers won't be surprised by ivy's restoration from the bad to the good plant league. They have always cherished the reviled nettle as the butterfly's friend and know the despised ivy as one of the urban bird's greatest sanctuaries.

The findings of the Oxford researchers would not have surprised the ancient world, either. Before our obsession grew with cleansing walls of supposedly damaging plants, ivy was revered. Pagan poets were crowned with ivy and its evergreen qualities symbolised eternal life to medieval Christians who paired it up with the holly in the popular carol. As the champion of the unjustly condemned, we applaud ivy's rehabilitation. It should be left to climb in peace.