What is Heather?

True Heathers belong to the genera Calluna which are quite specific to acidic conditions.

Heather (also known as Ling or Lyng) is pictured here and is native to Northern Europe and Asia.  Calluna can be differentiated from Erica and Daboecia (heaths) by their corollas (petals) and calyx (sepals). Calluna is found in fours whereas Erica and Daboecia are found in fives. Note that the main difference between Erica and Daboecia are the size of the corolla which is substantially larger in Daboecia.

The leaves of Calluna are small and scale-like (less than 2–3 mm long) arranged in opposite and decussate pairs, whereas those of Erica and Daboecia are generally larger. Erica leaves are found in whorls of 3-4, sometimes 5 however Daboecia tend not to be in whorls.

The beautiful flowers emerge in late summer; in Ontario this tends to be between August and early October. Calluna can be single or double flowers.

Calluna vulgaris Painted by Christabel King.


Left: ‘David Eason’

Centre: ‘Annemarie’ .

Upper right: ‘Firefly’

Lower right: ‘Kinlochruel’ (C. vulgaris f. alba)


From: Nelson, E. C. 2011. Hardy heathers from the northern hemisphere Calluna, Daboecia, Erica. Kew Publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Marion Alyson Prokop
Marion Alyson Prokop


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