London, May 17 (ANI): "False friendship, like the ivy, decays and ruins the walls it embraces"-said Sir Richard Burton in his English translation of One Thousand and One Nights. But, an Oxford University research has challenged his words, claiming that the much-maligned creeping plant actually protects walls.
Led by Professor Heather Viles, researchers found that ivy canopies shielded walls against changing temperatures - the most serious issue for British architecture.
It also protects against weathering.
"It seems to be a very long-term view that ivy is damaging and it is mainly from people's observations, rather than scientific research," the Independent quoted her as saying.
"If you have a wall with lots of holes, nooks and crannies in it, ivy will take hold, so people put two and two together. "In many cases where walls were already damaged, ivy would also be used to cover them up. When, later, they were uncovered, people would think the ivy was to blame," she added.
The study showed that ivy kept the surface temperature of the walls relatively constant.
The study showed that the plant also absorbed some of the harmful pollutants in the atmosphere.
While the American state of Oregon had banned the sale of ivy earlier this year, but Viles said she hoped that may change with the release of her team's research.
"Ivy has been accused of destroying everything in its path and threatening some of our best-loved heritage sites. Yet these findings suggest that there are many benefits to having ivy growing on the wall. It not only provides colourful foliage but also provides walls with weather-proofing and protection from the effects of pollution.
"This research does not provide a hard-and-fast rule - there will indeed be conditions where removing ivy is the best thing to do - but policy on this type of thing has often been made based on received wisdom. We are providing scientific research," said Viles.
The study was commissioned by English Heritage, which wanted to discover what effect ivy was likely to have on important heritage sites.
The research team monitored wall moisture levels and measured the temperature and relative humidity beneath the ivy canopy, compared to bare walls.
The researchers built a test wall, planting ivy at the base, at Wytham Woods in Oxfordshire.
The cube-shaped wall contains different flaws so researchers could measure and compare the different deterioration rates.
Viles will be presenting the team's findings to a Geological Society of London conference next week.
She said she hopes the discussions will result in a set of guidelines on how to deal with ivy being drawn up. (ANI)