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Overview

Brief Summary

Heather turns fields purple in the summer. It is the dominant species in the heathlands of the northern Dutch dunes and on high sandy grounds more inland. By the time bog heather has flowered, common heather starts to blossoms. It takes 3 to 4 years for a plant to flower. And after 15 years, it becomes very woody and flowerless. Common heather is an important plant for insects that consume nectar and pollen, such as mining bees, butterflies and moths.
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Biology

Heather flowers from July to September (4); the flowers are pollinated by insects and by the wind (2). This plant has been put to various practical uses; it has been used as fodder, fuel, thatch, bedding for livestock and humans, a packing material, and to make ropes, brooms, an orange dye, and beer. White heather is thought to be lucky, especially in Scotland (5).
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Description

Heather is a highly branched evergreen shrub. The numerous stems take root at the base, and there are also a large number of short side shoots (2). The leaves are very small and scale-like, their sides are often curled back so much that they are triangular in cross-section (2). The small reddish-purple flowers are borne on narrow spikes (4). Shrubs typically grow to around 60cm in height, but may occasionally reach 1 m (2).
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Comprehensive Description

Miscellaneous Details

"Notes: Western Ghats, Cultivated, Native of North Temperate"
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Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Exotic

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Tamil Nadu: Dindigul
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Occurrence in North America

     CT  ME  MD  MA  MI  NH  NJ  NY  PA  RI
     VT  WV  NB  NF  NS  ON  PQ

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Heather is naturalized in North America from Newfoundland west to
Michigan and south through Nova Scotia and the New England states to the
mountains of West Virginia.  It is widespread throughout Europe
[7,40,41].

Most of the information contained in this write-up is taken from
research conducted in western Europe.
  • 7.  Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections        supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 40.  Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS:        Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p.  [13158]
  • 41.  Seymour, Frank Conkling. 1982. The flora of New England. 2d ed.        Phytologia Memoirs 5. Plainfield, NJ: Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L.        Moldenke. 611 p.  [7604]

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Range

Found throughout much of the British Isles, but is less widespread in the East Midlands (2). Elsewhere, heather is found in most of western Europe, reaching as far north as Scandinavia, but becomes scarce in parts of the Mediterranean. It also occurs in west Asia and North Africa, and has been introduced to North America and Chile (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: adventitious, shrub

Heather is an evergreen ascending shrub, usually reaching 3.3 feet (1 m)
in height [7,11,41].  Growth form varies from low and sparse to dense
and bushy [22].  The opposite leaves are 0.08 to 0.16 inches (0.2-0.4
cm) long, and flowers are in axillary or terminal racemes [7,11,41].
The root system is lateral and mostly buried within the top 4 inches (10
cm) of soil [13,34].  On poorly drained sites, roots may extend to 8
inches (20 cm) below ground [34].  Young plants have a taproot that is
later obscured by increased growth and branching of lateral roots.  A
surface mat is formed by adventitious roots and fine branches of the
main root system [13].
  • 7.  Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections        supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 11.  Gleason, H. A.; Cronquist, A. 1963. Manual of vascular plants of        northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Princeton, NJ: D. Van        Nostrand Company, Inc. 810 p.  [7065]
  • 13.  Heath, G. H.; Luckwell, L. C.; Pullen, O. J. 1938. The rooting systems        of heath plants. Journal of Ecology. 26: 331-352.  [9016]
  • 22.  Kayll, A. J.. 1967. Moor burning in Scotland. In: Proceedings, 3rd        annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1967 March 6-7;        Tallahassee, FL. No. 2. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station:        29-39.  [18910]
  • 34.  Messier, Christian; Kimmins, James P. 1991. Above- & below-ground        vegetation recovery in recently clearcut & burned sites dominated by        Gaultheria shallon in coastal British Columbia. Forest Ecology and        Management. 46(3-4): 275-294.  [17206]
  • 41.  Seymour, Frank Conkling. 1982. The flora of New England. 2d ed.        Phytologia Memoirs 5. Plainfield, NJ: Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L.        Moldenke. 611 p.  [7604]

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Diagnostic Description

Diagnostic

Habit: Shrub
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat characteristics

Heather is found on nutrient-poor, acidic soils in open areas [20].  It
occurs in dry fields [41], wet bogs [16,24,43], dry heathlands or moors
[10,18,35], clearings in pine (Pinus spp.)-birch forests [10,43], oak
(Quercus spp.) woodlands [10], and above treeline [10,12].
  • 10.  Gimingham, C. H. 1971. British heathland ecosytems: the outcome of many        years of management by fire. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire        ecology conference; 1970 August 20-21; Fredericton, NB. No. 10.        Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 293-321.  [18943]
  • 12.  Haselwandter, K.; Read, D. J. 1980. Fungal associations of roots of        dominant and sub-dominant plants in high-alpine vegetation systems with        special reference to mycorrhiza. Oecologia. 45(1): 57-62.  [9861]
  • 16.  Hobbs, R. J. 1984. Length of burning rotation and community composition        in high-level Calluna-Eriophorum bog in northern England. Vegetatio. 57:        129-136.  [19864]
  • 18.  Hobbs, R. J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1984. Studies on fire in Scottish        heathland communities. I. Fire characteristics. Journal of Ecology. 72:        223-240.  [19736]
  • 20.  Iason, Glenn R.; Hester, Alison J. 1993. The response of heather        (Calluna vulgaris) to shade and nutrients-- predictions of the        carbon-nutrient balance hypothesis. Journal of Ecology. 81: 75-80.        [20967]
  • 24.  Lance, Art N. 1983. Performance of sheep on unburned and serially burned        blanket bog in western Ireland. Journal of Applied Ecology. 20: 767-775.        [19862]
  • 35.  Miller, G. R. 1980. The burning of heather moorland for red grouse.        Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 725-733.  [19858]
  • 41.  Seymour, Frank Conkling. 1982. The flora of New England. 2d ed.        Phytologia Memoirs 5. Plainfield, NJ: Harold N. Moldenke and Alma L.        Moldenke. 611 p.  [7604]
  • 43.  Tolonen, Mirjami. 1987. Vegetational history in coastal southwest        Finland studied on a lake and a peat bog by pollen and charcoal        analysis. Annales Botanici Fennici. 24(4): 353-370.  [6681]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: fern, lichens

Some common plant associates of heather in Europe include Scotch pine
(Pinus sylvestris), Norway spruce (Picea abies), birch (Betula spp.),
heath (Erica spp.), dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), mountain
cranberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi),
crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), willow (Salix spp.), red raspberry (Rubus
idaeus), sheathed cottonsedge (Eriophorum vaginatum), bracken fern
(Pteridium aquilinum), sedges (Carex spp.), hairgrass (Deschampsia
flexuosa), moor-grass (Molinia spp.), reindeer lichens (Cladonia spp.),
Sphagnum spp., fire moss (Ceratodon purpureus), Polytrichum spp.,
mountain fern moss (Hylocomium splendens), and feathermoss (Pleurozium
schreberi) [1,15,43,45].
  • 1.  Borowski, Stanislaw; Dzieciolowski, Ryszard. 1980. Browse supply in        lowland forests of eastern Poland. Holarctic Ecology. 3: 202-213.        [19884]
  • 15.  Hester, A. J.; Miles, J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1991. Succession from heather        moorland to birch woodland. I. Experimental alteration of specific        environmental conditions in the field. Journal of Ecology. 79: 303-315.        [19770]
  • 43.  Tolonen, Mirjami. 1987. Vegetational history in coastal southwest        Finland studied on a lake and a peat bog by pollen and charcoal        analysis. Annales Botanici Fennici. 24(4): 353-370.  [6681]
  • 45.  Uggla, Evald. 1959. Ecological effects of fire on north Swedish forests.        [Place of publication unknown]

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

   FRES10  White - red - jack pine
   FRES11  Spruce - fir
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch
   FRES19  Aspen - birch

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This species typically dominates heaths, moors, bogs and grasslands, which are poor in nutrients. It also grows in acidic soils in open woodland, and can tolerate a range of moisture levels, from wet peat bogs to exposed and dry areas (3). It reaches altitudes of 750 m (2).
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Associations

In Great Britain and/or Ireland:
Foodplant / internal feeder
Acalles ptinoides feeds within dead twig? of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / gall
Aceria exigua causes gall of stem of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / epiphyte
fruitbody of Aleurodiscus norvegicus grows on attached twig of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / open feeder
imago of Altica longicollis grazes on leaf of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / open feeder
imago of Altica oleracea grazes on leaf of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Amanita fulva is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Amanita porphyria is associated with Calluna vulgaris
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
Amara infima is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
imago of Ampedus sanguinolentus is associated with root of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / nest
female of Andrena argentata provisions nest with pollen of Calluna vulgaris
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / nest
female of Andrena fuscipes provisions nest with pollen of Calluna vulgaris
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / pathogen
Armillaria mellea s.l. infects and damages Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
subiculate apothecium of Belonopsis obscura is saprobic on old stem of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: 4-8

Plant / associate
Bradycellus collaris is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Caenopsis fissirostris is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Caenopsis waltoni is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Animal / vector
seed of Calluna vulgaris is spread by worker of Tetramorium caespitum

Plant / associate
basidiome of Cantharellula umbonata is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / feeds on
larva of Ceratothrips ericae feeds on live flower of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / mycorrhiza
fruitbody of Clavaria argillacea is mycorrhizal with live root of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Coccinella hieroglyphica is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / nest
female of Colletes succinctus provisions nest with pollen of Calluna vulgaris
Other: sole host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Collybia alpina is saprobic on decaying litter of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Collybia dryophila is saprobic on decaying litter of Calluna vulgaris
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / pathogen
fruitbody of Collybia fusipes infects and damages live root of Calluna vulgaris
Other: unusual host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Collybia maculata is saprobic on decayed litter of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / mycorrhiza
fruitbody of Coltricia perennis is mycorrhizal with live root of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / internal feeder
larva of Coniocleonus nebulosus feeds within rootstock of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / gall
Cuscuta epithymum causes gall of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Cystoderma granulosum is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Entoloma argenteostriatum is associated with live Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Entoloma cetratum is saprobic on dead, fallen, decayed debris of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: early summer -
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / parasite
conidial anamorph of Erysiphe azaleae parasitises live leaf of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: captive: in captivity, culture, or experimentally induced

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Galerina cinctula is saprobic on debris of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / feeds on
Globiceps juniperi feeds on Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
pycnidium of Topospora coelomycetous anamorph of Godronia callunigena is saprobic on dead twig of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: 4-5

Foodplant / saprobe
Topospora coelomycetous anamorph of Godronia cassandrae f. callunae is saprobic on dead twig of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / pathogen
fruitbody of Heterobasidion annosum infects and damages live root of Calluna vulgaris
Other: minor host/prey

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Hygrocybe laeta var. laeta is associated with live Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / parasite
fruitbody of Hymenochaete corrugata parasitises live wood of Calluna vulgaris
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Hypochnicium punctulatum is saprobic on dead stem of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / mycorrhiza / ectomycorrhiza
fruitbody of Inocybe praetervisa is ectomycorrhizal with live root of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / saprobe
usually superficial pseudothecium of Keissleriella subalpina is saprobic on old stem of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / sap sucker
nymph of Kleidocerys ericae sucks sap of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: Other: uncertain

Foodplant / saprobe
long stalked apothecium of Lachnum virgineum is saprobic on dead twig of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: 2-10

Plant / resting place / within
nest of Leptothorax interruptus may be found in root of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / open feeder
imago of Lochmaea suturalis grazes on leaf of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / pathogen
mycelium of Marasmius androsaceus infects and damages live stem of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / hemiparasite
Melampyrum sylvaticum is hemiparasitic on root of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Micrelus ericae is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Micromphale impudicum is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
sessile apothecium of Mollisia cinerea is saprobic on dead twig of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: 1-12

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Mycena galopus var. nigra is saprobic on burnt stem of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Mycena megaspora is associated with Calluna vulgaris
Other: major host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Mycena sanguinolenta is saprobic on stem of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / sap sucker
nymph of Nysius helveticus sucks sap of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
Oidiodendron dematiaceous anamorph of Oidiodendron tenuissimum is saprobic on dead twig of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: 1-12

Plant / associate
Orius niger is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / feeds on
adult of Orthotylus ericetorum feeds on leaf of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
acervulus of Pestalotiopsis coelomycetous anamorph of Pestalotiopsis sydowiana is saprobic on dead Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
colony of Phaeostalagmus dematiaceous dematiaceous anamorph of Phaeostalagmus cyclosporus is saprobic on dead twig of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: 1-12

Foodplant / pathogen
Phytophthora kernoviae infects and damages Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / pathogen
Phytophthora ramorum infects and damages Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
effuse, arachnoid colony of Pithomyces dematiaceous anamorph of Pithomyces valparadisiacus is saprobic on dead twig of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / parasite
dominant Ptychogaster anamorph of Postia ptychogaster parasitises live root of Calluna vulgaris
Other: minor host/prey

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Psathyrella friesii is saprobic on debris of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
erumpent apothecium of Pseudophacidium ledi is saprobic on dead stem of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Pseudotomentella tristis is saprobic on dead, decayed stem of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
Spirosphaera anamorph of Spirosphaera floriformis is saprobic on dead wood of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Strophosoma capitatum is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Strophosoma fulvicorne is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Strophosoma nebulosum is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Strophosoma sus is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Suillus granulatus is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Suillus variegatus is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / sap sucker
adult of Systellonotus triguttatus sucks sap of shoot of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: late 5-mid 8

Foodplant / saprobe
gregarious, subiculate apothecium of Tapesia cinerella is saprobic on dead stem of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
subiculate apothecium of Tapesia lividofusca is saprobic on dead stem of Calluna vulgaris
Remarks: season: 5-8

Foodplant / feeds on
Tetramorium caespitum feeds on seed of Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / feeds on
scattered, erumpent pycnidium of Topospora coelomycetous anamorph of Topospora obturata feeds on leaf of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
basidiocarp of Tremella callunicola is associated with stem of Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
Trichocellus cognatus is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Plant / associate
fruitbody of Tricholoma stans is associated with Calluna vulgaris

Foodplant / saprobe
fruitbody of Vuilleminia macrospora is saprobic on dying stem of Calluna vulgaris

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General Ecology

Fire Management Implications

More info for the terms: cover, fuel

Vegetation height may be a useful integrating factor for determining the
state of a stand and its fuel availability.  It has been suggested that
heather be burned before it reaches 12 inches (30 cm).

Burning old stands of heather may lead to a rapid spread of rhizomatous
species (such as dwarf bilberry) when these species were present before
the fire, even in small quantities.  In old heather stands where
rhizomatous species are not present, colonization by heather seedlings
may take a very long time and bare ground may remain for many years.  In
both cases, the lack of rapid heather regeneration is of concern since
it is often the major forage species present on these species-poor
heaths.  In addition, soil erosion continues until vegetative cover is
established, and the risk of erosion is much greater when heather growth
is delayed.  Fire, therefore, may be an unsuitable form of management in
old stands of heather.

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Site Description

Site characteristics for the stands follow:

                     Stand 1      Stand 2      Stand 3      Stand 4
_______________________________________________________________________
Slope (deg)            10           10            7           10
Aspect                  NW           NW           NW           SW
Altitude (m)           400          400          400          420

The substrate consisted of podzolized soils on quartz schist till.  Mean
temperatures in the area are 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-0.8 deg C) in
January and 56 degrees Fahrenheit (13.4 deg C) in July.  Annual rainfall
ranges from 35 to 48 inches (870-1,190 mm).

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Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: fire interval, interference, litter, phase, tree

Most heaths dominated by heather are a product of interference by humans
and were historically preceded by forest [30].  In western Europe,
burning at regular intervals has been the principle land management
practice for heaths for over 200 years and has resulted in the
development of pure heather stands over vast tracts of land [17,29,31].
Heaths have been maintained for sheep and red grouse, both of which are
economically important.  When managing red grouse habitat, heather is
burned to provide a mosaic of stands with diverse ages, heights, and
densities [31,35].  Heaths are not burned after March due to breeding
and nesting [47].

In dry heaths of western Europe, fire is used to prevent tree invasion
[36], maintain a balance between young and old heather shoots, and
maintain heather in the building phase at the expense of other species
[17].  Dominance of heather on these heaths is important because it is
often the most productive and nutritious species found on dry, infertile
heath soils [10].  Heather production greatly exceeds heather
consumption by herbivores, resulting in a large accumulation of wood and
litter.  Decomposition is slow in the cool, wet climate and acid soils
of dry heaths, so a deep layer of plant litter and humus forms.  Fire
removes the dead wood and litter.  If burning takes place when the
vegetation is too dry or in old stands with large accumulations of dead
woody material, stem bases may be killed.  Temperatures above 1,112
degrees Fahrenheit (600 deg C) increase the loss of nutrients,
especially nitrogen and phosphorous, which are often already deficient
in the nutrient-poor soils that heather grows in [17].

A fire interval of approximately 15 years has been suggested for the
management of heather in heathlands at low to middle altitudes.  This
interval maintains heather in its competitive building phase, allowing
it to outcompete other species [10,35].  If intervals are longer than 15
years, the heather may be too old to sprout from stem bases or fires may
be too severe.  This may lead to an extended period where the
competitive vigor of heather is low, allowing the invasion of bracken
fern or other undesirable species [10].  Since height is an indicator of
stand phase, it can also be used as a factor in determining appropriate
fire intervals.  It has been suggested that heather be burned before it
reaches 12 inches (30 cm) [19]; heather more than 16 inches (40 cm) tall
often burns very severely and is thus seldom targeted for prescribed
fire [30].  A well-managed fire removes most of the aerial vegetation
while still permitting vigorous vegetative regeneration [10,30].
Temperatures of about 752 degrees Fahrenheit (400 deg C) in the canopy
and less than 392 degrees Fahrenheit (200 deg C) at the soil surface are
optimal [10].  Moderate heat may stimulate germination of seeds [31].
 
Fire management of heather in wet bogs produces inconsistent results
[10,16].  Frequent burning of wet bogs in Ireland has in some cases led
to the replacement of heather by deciduous species.  This in turn has
resulted in an increased amount of litter produced yearly and a lower
stocking capacity for sheep in winter.  To maintain heather, areas can
be burned in long rotations [24].  Longer intervals between fires (about
20 years) are also suggested for the management of wet bogs in Great
Britain.  Frequent burning of heather there temporarily increases the
availability of young shoots, but the resulting community is dominated
by sheathed cottonsedge or moor-grass rather than heather.  Burning may
not be required at all since heather remains in a "steady state" in wet
bog habitats [16].
  • 10.  Gimingham, C. H. 1971. British heathland ecosytems: the outcome of many        years of management by fire. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire        ecology conference; 1970 August 20-21; Fredericton, NB. No. 10.        Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 293-321.  [18943]
  • 16.  Hobbs, R. J. 1984. Length of burning rotation and community composition        in high-level Calluna-Eriophorum bog in northern England. Vegetatio. 57:        129-136.  [19864]
  • 17.  Hobbs, R. J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1980. Some effects of fire and grazing on        heath vegetation. Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 709-715.  [19855]
  • 19.  Hobbs, R. J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1984. Studies on fire in Scottish        heathland communities. II. Post-fire vegetation development. Journal of        Ecology. 72: 585-610.  [19767]
  • 24.  Lance, Art N. 1983. Performance of sheep on unburned and serially burned        blanket bog in western Ireland. Journal of Applied Ecology. 20: 767-775.        [19862]
  • 29.  Mallik, A. U.; Rahman, A. A. 1985. Soil water repellency in regularly        burned Calluna heathlands: comparison of three measuring techniques.        Journal of Environmental Management. 20: 207-218.  [19859]
  • 30.  Maltby, E. 1980. The impact of severe fire on Calluna moorland in the        North York Moors. Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 683-708.  [19868]
  • 31.  Maltby, E.; Legg, C. J.; Proctor, M. C. F. 1990. The ecology of severe        moorland fire on the North York Moors: effects of the 1976 fires, and        subsequent surface and vegetation development. Journal of Ecology.        78(2): 490-518.  [19852]
  • 35.  Miller, G. R. 1980. The burning of heather moorland for red grouse.        Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 725-733.  [19858]
  • 36.  Miller, G. R.; Watson, Adam. 1974. Some effects of fire on vertebrate        herbivores in the Scottish highlands. In: Proceedings, annual Tall        Timbers fire ecology conference; 1973 March 22-23; Tallahassee, FL. No.        13. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station:39-64.  [18970]
  • 47.  Van Der Ven, J. A. 1974. Nature management in the Netherlands and its        financial consequences, with special attention to the role of fire. In:        Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1973 March        22-23; Tallahassee, FL. No. 13. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research        Station:19-37.  [18969]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: bog, fuel, lichen, litter, phase, severity

The response of heather to fire is highly variable and is dependent on
(1) the habitat that is burned (wet bog or dry heath), (2) the phase the
heather is in (pioneer, building, mature, degenerate), and (3) the
temperature and duration of the fire.  The severity of grazing on young
heather shoots after fire may also affect their response [36].

Most fires that occur in pioneer or building phase stands in dry heaths
are light to moderately severe.  Regeneration after these fires is by
sprouting from stem bases protected from the heat by litter and organic
soil horizons, and from germination of seeds stored in seedbanks [25].
 
Severe fires which occur due to accumulation of fuel in old or very dry
stands may kill stem bases.  In such cases, regeneration is from seeds
alone, and is much slower than vegetative growth [10,25,28].  If seeds
are killed by severe fire, establishment depends on seed dispersal from
adjacent unburned areas [30].  Severely burned areas may remain bare for
70 years or more [30], or a moss or lichen mat may form which will
inhibit germination of heather seeds [3,30].
 
  • 3.  Clement, B.; Touffet, J. 1981. Vegetation dynamics in Brittany        heathlands after fire. Vegetatio. 46: 157-166.  [18454]
  • 10.  Gimingham, C. H. 1971. British heathland ecosytems: the outcome of many        years of management by fire. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire        ecology conference; 1970 August 20-21; Fredericton, NB. No. 10.        Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 293-321.  [18943]
  • 25.  Legg, C. J.; Maltby, E.; Proctor, M. C. F. 1992. The ecology of severe        moorland fire on the North York Moors: seed distribution and seedling        establishment of Calluna vulgaris. Journal of Ecology. 80: 737-752.        [20458]
  • 28.  Mallik, A. U.; Hobbs, R. J.; Rahman, A. A. 1988. Seed-bed substrates and        revegetation of Calluna heathlands following burning. Journal of        Environmental Management. 27: 379-397.  [6594]
  • 30.  Maltby, E. 1980. The impact of severe fire on Calluna moorland in the        North York Moors. Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 683-708.  [19868]
  • 36.  Miller, G. R.; Watson, Adam. 1974. Some effects of fire on vertebrate        herbivores in the Scottish highlands. In: Proceedings, annual Tall        Timbers fire ecology conference; 1973 March 22-23; Tallahassee, FL. No.        13. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station:39-64.  [18970]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Exposure to temperatures greater than 932 degrees Fahrenheit (500 deg C)
for more than 1 minute is lethal to heather whatever its age [8].
Severe fires may kill seeds [30].  Light to moderately severe fires may
top-kill heather but usually do not damage stem bases or destroy seeds [25].
  • 8.  Forgeard, F. 1990. Development, growth and species richness on Brittany        heathlands after fire. Oecologica. 11(2): 191-213.  [15641]
  • 25.  Legg, C. J.; Maltby, E.; Proctor, M. C. F. 1992. The ecology of severe        moorland fire on the North York Moors: seed distribution and seedling        establishment of Calluna vulgaris. Journal of Ecology. 80: 737-752.        [20458]
  • 30.  Maltby, E. 1980. The impact of severe fire on Calluna moorland in the        North York Moors. Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 683-708.  [19868]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: ground residual colonizer, secondary colonizer, shrub

   Small shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
   Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
   Secondary colonizer - off-site seed
   Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

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Fire Ecology

More info for the term: top-kill

Heather is a fire-adapted species; dense stands of heather on dry heaths
require repeated fire for maintenance [5].  Removal of the forest canopy
by fire increases heather abundance [23].  Following top-kill, heather
sprouts from surviving stem bases and reproduces from seedbanks
[10,25,44].  Sprouts and newly established seedlings flower and produce
seed rapidly, possibly within the first postfire year.  This greatly
increases the abundance of heather on recently burned sites [27].
  • 5.  Engelmark, Ola. 1987. Fire history correlations to forest type and        topography in northern Sweden. Annales Botanici Fennici. 24(4): 317-324.        [6688]
  • 10.  Gimingham, C. H. 1971. British heathland ecosytems: the outcome of many        years of management by fire. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire        ecology conference; 1970 August 20-21; Fredericton, NB. No. 10.        Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 293-321.  [18943]
  • 23.  Keatinge, T. H. 1975. Plant community dynamics in wet heathland. Journal        of Ecology. 63: 163-172.  [21122]
  • 25.  Legg, C. J.; Maltby, E.; Proctor, M. C. F. 1992. The ecology of severe        moorland fire on the North York Moors: seed distribution and seedling        establishment of Calluna vulgaris. Journal of Ecology. 80: 737-752.        [20458]
  • 27.  Mallik, A. U.; Hobbs, R. J.; Legg, C. J. 1984. Seed dynamics in        Calluna-Arctostaphylos heath in north-eastern Scotland. Journal of        Ecology. 72: 855-871.  [7461]
  • 44.  Trabaud, L. 1987. Fire and survival traits of plants. In: Trabaud, L.,        ed. Role of fire in ecological systems. Hague, The Netherlands: SPB        Academic Publishers: 65-89.  [16411]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: shrub

Facultative Seral Species

Heather is a slow-growing, early successional shrub [20].  It is present
after logging in Scotch pine and Norway spruce stands in Sweden [2] and
Finland [37].  Heather is highly intolerant of shade [15,20].

In the absence of fire, heather-dominated heaths or moors are replaced
by birch and Scotch pine woodland [15,20], and in some areas by bracken
fern [32].  In wet bogs, heather maintains a "steady state" without
disturbance [16,17].
  • 2.  Cederlund, Goran N.; Okarma, Henryk. 1988. Home range and habitat use of        adult female moose. Journal of Wildlife Management. 52(2): 336-343.        [13905]
  • 15.  Hester, A. J.; Miles, J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1991. Succession from heather        moorland to birch woodland. I. Experimental alteration of specific        environmental conditions in the field. Journal of Ecology. 79: 303-315.        [19770]
  • 16.  Hobbs, R. J. 1984. Length of burning rotation and community composition        in high-level Calluna-Eriophorum bog in northern England. Vegetatio. 57:        129-136.  [19864]
  • 17.  Hobbs, R. J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1980. Some effects of fire and grazing on        heath vegetation. Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 709-715.  [19855]
  • 20.  Iason, Glenn R.; Hester, Alison J. 1993. The response of heather        (Calluna vulgaris) to shade and nutrients-- predictions of the        carbon-nutrient balance hypothesis. Journal of Ecology. 81: 75-80.        [20967]
  • 32.  Marrs, R. H.; Hicks, M. J. 1986. Study of vegetation change at        Lakenheath Warren: a re-examination of A. S. Watt's theories of bracken        dynamics in relation to succession and vegetation management. Journal of        Applied Ecology. 23: 1029-1046.  [9969]
  • 37.  Nieppola, Jari. 1992. Long-term vegetation changes in stands of Pinus        sylvestris in southern Finland. Journal of Vegetation Science. 3:        475-484.  [21845]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: bog, cover, layering, lichen

Heather reproduces from both seed and vegetative growth from stem bases
[6,10,44].

Heather seeds are small and are dispersed by wind or animals [6,25,45].
Seeds rarely germinate without exposure to light [6,25].  They show poor
germination on moss or lichen mats, possibly due to light deprivation
from the moss or lichen cover.  However, a moss carpet has a positive
effect on seedling performance.  Seedlings established on moss grow
faster and reproduce earlier than seedlings growing on bare ground.
Heather seed germination is better on mineral than organic soil and on
consolidated than loose substrates.  Seeds do not germinate under
waterlogged conditions [6].  Germination increases when seeds are
heat-treated at temperatures of 104 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit (40-80 deg
C) for 1 minute.  Exposure to temperatures above 248 degrees Fahrenheit
(120 deg C) for more than 30 seconds decreases germination rates, and
temperatures exceeding 392 degrees Fahrenheit (200 deg C) kill heather
seeds [21].  Heather establishes large soil seedbanks [8].  Seeds are
usually evenly distributed in the top 2 inches (5 cm) of soil [27].
They may remain viable for over 100 years [25].
 
Sprouting from the stem bases most often occurs in stands between 6 and
10 years of age and decreases in stands over 15 years old [8].  Old
degenerate stands of heather may reproduce by layering [26].

On dry heaths or moors, heather generally has a life span of about 30 to
40 years and communities are usually even-aged.  In these habitats, the
life cycle occurs in four distinct phases.  In the pioneer stage (0-6
years), heather establishes and grows vertically from the apex.  During
the building stage (6-14 years), the plant grows laterally and forms a
dense, intertwining canopy with little light penetration.  In the mature
stage (14-25 years), lateral growth slows and the plant thins out in the
center.  In the degenerate stage (25 or more years), central branches
collapse and die, leaving a gap in the middle of the plant.  The pioneer
stage is characterized by low overall biomass and high productivity; the
building stage by high biomass and high productivity; and the mature and
degenerate stages by high biomass and declining productivity [10].

In wet bog communities, heather does not undergo a phasic life cycle.
An uneven-age structure of aboveground stems develops due to the
constant burial of stems by sphagnum mosses (Sphagnum spp.) [16].
Sphagnum grows over the decumbent heather stems, leaving only young
shoots above ground.  The older parts of the stem are increasingly
filled with heartwood and eventually become nonfunctional.  The
uneven-aged "stem population" is constantly rejuvenated so that the mean
age of aboveground shoots is about 12 years and the maximum age rarely
exceeds 22 years [17].  A degenerate stage does not occur [16].
  • 6.  Equihua, Miguel; Usher, Michael B. 1993. Impact of carpets of the        invasive moss Campylopus introflexus on Calluna vulgaris regeneration.        Journal of Ecology. 81: 359-365.  [21522]
  • 8.  Forgeard, F. 1990. Development, growth and species richness on Brittany        heathlands after fire. Oecologica. 11(2): 191-213.  [15641]
  • 10.  Gimingham, C. H. 1971. British heathland ecosytems: the outcome of many        years of management by fire. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire        ecology conference; 1970 August 20-21; Fredericton, NB. No. 10.        Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 293-321.  [18943]
  • 16.  Hobbs, R. J. 1984. Length of burning rotation and community composition        in high-level Calluna-Eriophorum bog in northern England. Vegetatio. 57:        129-136.  [19864]
  • 17.  Hobbs, R. J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1980. Some effects of fire and grazing on        heath vegetation. Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 709-715.  [19855]
  • 21.  Kayll, A. J. 1968. Heat tolerance of tree seedlings. In: Proceedings,        annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1968 March 14-15;        Tallahassee, FL. No. 8. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station:        89-105.  [17849]
  • 25.  Legg, C. J.; Maltby, E.; Proctor, M. C. F. 1992. The ecology of severe        moorland fire on the North York Moors: seed distribution and seedling        establishment of Calluna vulgaris. Journal of Ecology. 80: 737-752.        [20458]
  • 26.  Mallik, A. U. 1993. Ecology of a forest weed of Newfoundland: vegetative        regeneration strategy of Kalmia angustifolia. Canadian Journal of        Botany. 71: 161-166.  [21452]
  • 27.  Mallik, A. U.; Hobbs, R. J.; Legg, C. J. 1984. Seed dynamics in        Calluna-Arctostaphylos heath in north-eastern Scotland. Journal of        Ecology. 72: 855-871.  [7461]
  • 44.  Trabaud, L. 1987. Fire and survival traits of plants. In: Trabaud, L.,        ed. Role of fire in ecological systems. Hague, The Netherlands: SPB        Academic Publishers: 65-89.  [16411]
  • 45.  Uggla, Evald. 1959. Ecological effects of fire on north Swedish forests.        [Place of publication unknown]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: chamaephyte, phanerophyte

   Phanerophyte
   Chamaephyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: shrub

Shrub

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Season/Severity Classification

Spring/moderately-severe to severe fires

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

In North America heather flowers from July to November [7].
  • 7.  Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections        supplied by R. C. Rollins]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Calluna vulgaris

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Calluna vulgaris

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 11
Specimens with Barcodes: 18
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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Status

Widespread (3).
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Threats

The amount of habitat suitable for heather has been reduced drastically since 1950, especially in England. This decline was due to a loss of heathland through forestry, scrub growth, agricultural expansion, and mineral workings (3). Furthermore, in many upland areas, prolonged overgrazing has caused a loss of heather, which cannot survive periods of excessive grazing pressure (3). The greatest losses of heathland have been in the south of England; as much as three-quarters of the original heathlands have been lost in Dorset and the Breckland in the 20th century (5).
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Management

Management considerations

More info for the term: cover

Heather has lower shoot production, decreased dry shoot weight, and
reduced flowering in shaded conditions [15,20]. The quantity of lignin,
condensed tannin, and phenolic compounds produced is considerably
reduced under shaded conditions, making it more desirable to herbivores
[20].

In simulated grazing experiments, light to medium grazing increased the
number of shoot apices of heather, but heavy grazing eventually caused a
decline in cover.  Summer grazing may be more detrimental than winter
grazing, and older plants may be more vulnerable to grazing than younger
ones [15].

Heather releases allelopathic substances that may inhibit invasion
and growth of some trees in heather-dominated heaths and moors
[14,48,49].
  • 14.  Helliwell, D. R. 1986. Bracken clearance and potential for        afforestation. In: Smith, R. T.; Taylor, J. A., eds. Bracken: ecology,        land use and control technology; 1985 July 1 - July 5; Leeds, England.        Lancs, England: The Parthenon Publishing Group Limited: 459-464.  [9732]
  • 15.  Hester, A. J.; Miles, J.; Gimingham, C. H. 1991. Succession from heather        moorland to birch woodland. I. Experimental alteration of specific        environmental conditions in the field. Journal of Ecology. 79: 303-315.        [19770]
  • 20.  Iason, Glenn R.; Hester, Alison J. 1993. The response of heather        (Calluna vulgaris) to shade and nutrients-- predictions of the        carbon-nutrient balance hypothesis. Journal of Ecology. 81: 75-80.        [20967]
  • 48.  Whittaker, R. H. 1970. The biochemical ecology of higher plants. In:        Sondheimer, Ernest; Simeone, John B., eds. Chemical ecology. New York:        Academic Press: 43-70.  [12769]
  • 49.  Zackrisson, Olle; Nilsson, Marie-Charlotte. 1992. Allelopathic effects        by Empetrum hermaphroditum on seed germination of two boreal tree        species. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 22: 1310-1319.  [19665]

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Conservation

Most remaining heathland/ moorland is in the uplands; these heaths are used for sheep grazing and grouse management; many such areas are now in agri-environment schemes to help maintain heather cover (6).
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cover Value

More info for the term: cover

Heather is the primary cover of the European red grouse.  Grouse use
tall, old heather for cover; young, accessible shoots for food; and
dense patches for breeding [35].  Heather probably also provides good
cover for other upland game birds, small nongame birds, and small
mammals.
  • 35.  Miller, G. R. 1980. The burning of heather moorland for red grouse.        Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 725-733.  [19858]

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Nutritional Value

New shoot tips of heather are higher in nitrogen, phosphorous, and
copper than older stems; they decline in nutritional value after the
first year [24,35].
  • 24.  Lance, Art N. 1983. Performance of sheep on unburned and serially burned        blanket bog in western Ireland. Journal of Applied Ecology. 20: 767-775.        [19862]
  • 35.  Miller, G. R. 1980. The burning of heather moorland for red grouse.        Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 725-733.  [19858]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Heather leaves and shoots are the most important yearlong food of rock
ptarmigan and grouse in Scotland and Denmark [39].  Heather may comprise
80 to 100 percent of the diet of grouse, and also constitutes a large
portion of the diet of domestic sheep [10].  Red deer and mountain hare
also browse heather [35].
  • 10.  Gimingham, C. H. 1971. British heathland ecosytems: the outcome of many        years of management by fire. In: Proceedings, annual Tall Timbers fire        ecology conference; 1970 August 20-21; Fredericton, NB. No. 10.        Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 293-321.  [18943]
  • 35.  Miller, G. R. 1980. The burning of heather moorland for red grouse.        Bulletin D' Ecologie. 11(3): 725-733.  [19858]
  • 39.  Robinette, W. Leslie. 1972. Browse and cover for wildlife. In: McKell,        Cyrus M.; Blaisdell, James P.; Goodin, Joe R., tech. eds. Wildland        shrubs--their biology and utilization: An international symposium:        Proceedings; 1971 July; Logan, UT. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-1. Ogden, UT:        U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and        Range Experiment Station: 69-76.  [9713]

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Wikipedia

Calluna

Calluna flower close-up

Calluna vulgaris, known as Common Heather, ling, or simply heather,[1] is the sole species in the genus Calluna in the family Ericaceae. It is a low-growing perennial shrub growing to 20 to 50 centimetres (7.9 to 20 in) tall, or rarely to 1 metre (39 in), and is found widely in Europe and Asia Minor on acidic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade. It is the dominant plant in most heathland and moorland in Europe, and in some bog vegetation and acidic pine and oak woodland. It is tolerant of grazing and regenerates following occasional burning, and is often managed in nature reserves and grouse moors by sheep or cattle grazing, and also by light burning.

It is separated from the closely related genus Erica by its corolla and calyx each being in four parts instead of five. The flowers emerge in late summer – in wild plants these are normally mauve, but white-flowered plants also occur occasionally.

Heather is an important food source for various sheep and deer which can graze the tips of the plants when snow covers low growing vegetation. Willow Grouse and Red Grouse feed on the young shoots and seeds of this plant. Both adult and larva of the Heather Beetle Lochmaea suturalis feed on it, and can cause extensive mortality in some instances. The larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species also feed on the plant – see list of Lepidoptera that feed on Calluna.

When poems like Bonnie Auld Scotland speak of "fragrant hills of purple heather', when the hero of Kidnapped flees through the heather, when heather and Scotland are linked in the same sentence, the heather talked about is calluna vulgaris.[2]

Cultivation and uses

Heather is a very popular ornamental plant in gardens and for landscaping. There are many named cultivars, selected for variation in flower color and for different foliage color and growing habits.

Different cultivars have flower colors ranging from white, through pink and a wide range of purples, and including reds. The flowering season with different cultivars extends from late July to November in the northern hemisphere. The flowers may turn brown but still remain on the plants over winter, and this can lead to interesting decorative effects.

Cultivars with ornamental foliage are usually selected for reddish and golden leaf color. A few forms can be silvery grey. Many of the ornamental foliage forms change color with the onset of winter weather, usually increasing in intensity of colour. Some forms are grown for distinctive young spring foliage.

The plant was introduced to New Zealand and has become an invasive weed in some areas, notably the Tongariro National Park on the North Island and the Wilderness Reserve (Te Anau) on the South Island, overgrowing native plants. Heather beetles have been released to stop the heather, with preliminary trials successful to date.

The generic name Calluna is derived from καλλύνω, a Greek word meaning 'to beautify', or 'to sweep', as the plant was used to make brooms. The specific name vulgaris is Latin for 'common'.

Heather is an ingredient in gruit, a mixture of flavourings used in the brewing of beer during the Middle Ages before the use of hops. The use of heather in the brewing of modern heather beer is carefully regulated. By law[specify] the heather must be cleaned carefully before brewing, as the undersides of the leaves may contain a dusting of an ergot-like fungus, which is a hallucinogenic intoxicant.[citation needed]

Heather honey is a highly valued product in moorland and heathland areas, with many beehives being moved there in late summer. It has a characteristic strong taste, and an unusual texture – it is thixotropic, being a jelly until stirred, when it becomes a syrup (like other honey), but then sets again to a jelly. This makes the extraction of the honey from the comb difficult, and it is therefore often sold as comb honey.

White heather is regarded in some areas as being lucky, and sprigs of it are often sold as a charm.

Cultivars

Cultivars include ´Beoley Crimson´ (Crimson red), ‘Boskoop’ (light purple), ‘Cuprea’ (copper), 'Firefly' (deep mauve),‘Long White’ (white).

References

  1. ^ "ling". http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Ling. 
  2. ^ A. Wallace, The Heather in Lore, Lyric and Lay, p.5
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

heather
Scotch heather

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The currently accepted scientific name of heather is Calluna vulgaris
(L.) Hull. (Ericaceae) [7,11,40]. There are no recognized subspecies,
varieties, or forms.
  • 7.  Fernald, Merritt Lyndon. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. [Corrections        supplied by R. C. Rollins]
  • 11.  Gleason, H. A.; Cronquist, A. 1963. Manual of vascular plants of        northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. Princeton, NJ: D. Van        Nostrand Company, Inc. 810 p.  [7065]
  • 40.  Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS:        Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p.  [13158]

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