categoryZShrubs Shrubs List 
categoryZEvergreen Evergreen List 

HEATHER

LING

Calluna vulgaris

Heather Family [Ericaceae]

month8jul month8july month8aug month8sep month8sept

category
category8Shrubs
category
category8Evergreen
status
statusZnative
flower
flower8pink
 
flower
flower8white
sometimes
inner
inner8purple
 
morph
morph8actino
 
petals
petalsZ4
 
type
typeZspiked
 
type
typeZbell
at base
stem
stem8round
 
smell
smell8honey
honey
sex
sexZbisexual
 

28th Aug 2017, fells, Baslow, Derbyshire Photo: © RWD
Covers vast areas on acidic moorlands, often sharing the hills with Bell Heather (which flowers earlier in May but like Heather stays in flower until September) or other Heaths.


10th Aug 2017, Abney Moor, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
As far as the eye can see, and much further besides.


10th Aug 2017, Abney Moor, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The woody shrubs are up to 60cm high (occasionally up to 1.5m)


10th Aug 2017, Abney Moor, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are in usually long terminal racemes or panicles.


22nd Aug 2009, Marsden Moor, West Yorks. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are 3 to 4.5mm (smaller than most heaths or heathers apart from the very rare [RRR] Cornish Heath (Erica vagans) which can be slightly smaller at 2.5 to 3.5mm [but that has much longer but very narrow leaves in whorls of 4] or the similarly rare [RRR] Mackay's Heath (Erica mackayana) at 2 to 4.5mm [but that has much larger and wider leaves in whorls of 4]).

The leaves on Heather are arranged as two 'sorts': single ones on the stem, or branches off the stem with a longish spike of leaves - both sorts visible here. The leaves themselves are not actually identical - those that attach directly to the main stem have two isosceles-triangular auricles parallel to the stem - which the higher leaves of the spike of leaves lack (or if they do have them, then they are well hidden!). See further images below.



22nd Aug 2009, Marsden Moor, West Yorks. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are a pale-purple in colour (occasionally white) [a differing colour to Bell Heather where they are red-purple]. Those flowers at the top open last. Those in the centre open half-way. Whereas the petals of those in the bottom quarter of the plant are fused into a bell-shape


10th Aug 2017, Abney Moor, Derbyshire. Photo: © RWD
The flowers have a prominent, curving, single pale-pink style with a discoidal pink stigma at the tip.


22nd Aug 2009, Marsden Moor, West Yorks. Photo: © RWD
The flowers in the top 3/4ers will open with 4 inner petals and 4 concolorous outer sepals, all cupped. Surrounding the style are eight brownish anthers, each with two appendages at the base (close-ups further down the page). The topmost flowers don't open until slightly later.


21st Sept 2010, Sliabh Coilte, Co. Wexford, Ireland. Photo: © Paula O'Meara
Side view of flower.


18th Sept 2015, Coppermines Valley, Coniston, Lake Dist. Photo: © RWD
A rather rain-wetted flower. Each anther has split open and released their pollen.


19th Sept 2017, Dune-heath, Freshfield, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Each of the 8 brownish anthers has two curving, white appendages at the bottom.


19th Sept 2017, Dune-heath, Freshfield, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
As above.


22nd Aug 2009, Marsden Moor, West Yorks. Photo: © RWD
The leaves on the side branches have isosceles-triangular cross-section and are in tight spikes in opposite pairs in quadrature up the (hidden by leaves) stalk.


5th July 2017, Darwen Moor, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
The two sorts of leaves, those in compact spikes, and those on the main stem either alone or at the base where the spiked set of leaves joins the main stem.


5th July 2017, Darwen Moor, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Earlier in the year when the flowers are still developing. Oh, and by the way, the flowers can occasionally be white as here. This is a well-branched specimen.


5th July 2017, Darwen Moor, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
As-yet unopened flowers. Those leaves which attach directly to the main stem have two isoceles-triangular auricles parallel to the stem but not fixed to it. The shape of the leaves above the two auricles are of a tapered asymmetric triangle with 3 sides. The lowest two sides have a pale-green groove between them. (The third upper side which faces the main stem is not visible in these photos).


5th July 2017, Darwen Moor, Lancs. Photo: © RWD
Ultra-close-up of stem-leaves show their tapered triangular cross-section with two extra protrusions at the bottom, the auricles. The main stem is covered in very short hairs.


19th Sept 2017, Dune-heath, Freshfield, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
Most of the flowers here have still to open properly.


28th Aug 2017, fells, Baslow, Derbyshire Photo: © RWD
Here the leaves have turned a deep-brown and the two extensions near their base hug the concolorous stem.


19th Sept 2017, Dune-heath, Freshfield, Sefton Coast. Photo: © RWD
On this specimens the 4 sepals are still closed but with parts of the 4 petals peeking through the gaps.


28th Aug 2017, fells, Baslow, Derbyshire Photo: © RWD
Your Author is unsure what that whitish object is on the upper flower, it has probably blown in and is nothing to do with Heather.


18th Sept 2015, Coppermines Valley, Coniston, Lake Dist. Photo: © RWD
Lying flat on the ground over rocks. This is the end of season.


18th Sept 2015, Coppermines Valley, Coniston, Lake Dist. Photo: © RWD
Most florets here are bell-shaped with the 4 sepals and petals not opened (or maybe they have closed at end of season?)


18th Sept 2015, Coppermines Valley, Coniston, Lake Dist. Photo: © RWD
The flowers are decaying and fruits should be developing within, if only your Author had thought to open one and look inside...


Not to be semantically confused with : Sea Heath (Frankenia laevis) [a plant with similar name which is not a heath] nor with Prickly Heath Gaultheria mucronata

Uniquely identifiable characteristics

Distinguishing Feature :

It is a native woody and evergreen plant growing on moorland, heaths, bogs, sometimes in open woods and on old dunes but always on acidic ground.

Heather is all alone in the genus Calluna.

It is by far the most abundant heather/heath in the UK, the others such as Bell Heather and Cross-Leaved Heath being the next two most frequently found, in order of appearance, but they are both in the same but differing genus, Erica. There are about a dozen more Heaths, some very rare.

The fruit is a capsule splitting in two when ripe.

A yellow dye can be extracted from the plant which was used to tan leather.

The honey which bees make out of the nectar is thixotropic, being a thick jelly until stirred when it liquifies to a thick syrup, only to 'solidify' again when stirring ceases.


  Calluna vulgaris  ⇐ Global Aspect ⇒ Ericaceae  

Distribution
 family8Heather family8Ericaceae
 BSBI maps
genus8Calluna
Calluna
(Heather)

HEATHER

LING

Calluna vulgaris

Heather Family [Ericaceae]