categoryZShrubs Shrubs List 
categoryZEvergreen Evergreen List 

DORSET HEATH

Erica ciliaris

Heather Family [Ericaceae]

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category
category8Shrubs
category
category8Evergreen
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8pink
 
flower
flower8white
sometimes
inner
inner8red
 
morph
morph8actino
 
morph
morph8hemizygo
 
petals
petalsZ4
 
type
typeZspiked
 
type
typeZbell
 
stem
stem8round
 
rarity
rarityZrare
 
sex
sexZbisexual
 

8th July 2015, Purbeck, Dorset Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
Usually taller (to 60cm) and straggly than is Cross-Leaved Heath.

The mind boggles at the shape the flowers adopt when the tip has not opened! [See top left].



8th July 2015, Purbeck, Dorset Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
The flowers are in a sparsely-leaved or bracted elongated spike (raceme) at the top and are a bright-pink (but sometimes white), turning orange as they decay and the fruits develop within. The flowers usually occur in whorls of 3, sometimes of 4, with the corolla being a long 8 to 12mm (the largest of any UK heath/heather), with the older lower ones curving slightly downwards.

The mind is still boggling at the unopened flower shape top right.



8th July 2015, Purbeck, Dorset Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
The short leaves are mostly in branches from the stems, of which there are several - the plant is branched.


8th July 2015, Purbeck, Dorset Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
The leaves are between 2 to 4mm long with usually glandular hairs. A shrivelled and spent flower spike is in greyish-white. The leaves on a flowering stem are more separated and it can be seen that here they are in whorls of 3 (but it can sometimes be of 4). Further down the main stem (unseen in these photos) are many well-separated short branches of leaves..


8th July 2015, Purbeck, Dorset Photo: (CC by 2.0) Geoff Toone
The tip of a flowering spike with many flowers yet to develop in the crowded tip.


Hybridizes with :

  • Cross-Leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) to produce Erica × watsonii which has leaves more similar to those of Cross-Leaved Heath but flowers that ate more like those of Dorset Heath but with short appendages around their bases. This hybrid is highly sterile, but does backcross in Dorset.
Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature : The large (8 to 12mm long) pinkish flowers with a narrowed almost tubular end, possibly with a short style protruding. And the tree-like leaves on the lower half in well-separated but oppositely paired branches.

It is to be found in Dorset as well as South Devon and West Cornwall (and has become naturalised in South Hants and West Galway in Ireland.), and is a very rare [RRR] (as are 3 other Heaths). It likes heaths especially damp heaths.


  Erica ciliaris  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ericaceae  

Distribution
 family8Heather family8Ericaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Erica
Erica
(Heaths)

DORSET HEATH

Erica ciliaris

Heather Family [Ericaceae]