Heather (Calluna vulgaris), also called common heather or ling is the dominant heathland plant in many parts of Britain and Ireland. It can be found on low-nutrient acidic soils, such as moorland and mountain slopes where thin peaty soil lies upon granite.
Heather is an important source of nectar for many insect species, including the bees and butterflies included in our other surveys. Changes in the timing of flowering may result in food not being available during the flying times of insects, or a lack of available pollinators.
- Leaves are small and stalk-less growing in four vertical rows along the branches and are present year round
- Flowers are bell shaped and pink or pale purple
- Flowering: previously recorded between July - September
- Potential confusion species are 'bell heather' and 'cross-leaved heath'
Heather was traditionally used for making brooms – 'Calluna' comes from Greek kallúno meaning “to beautify, sweep, clean”.
Heather honey has a strong taste and an unusual texture – forming a jelly until it is stirred (this texture is known as 'thixotrophic') and for this reason is often sold as comb honey, as it is difficult to extract from the comb.
Heather can occasionally produce white flowers – regarded as lucky in Scotland – an idea spread by Queen Victoria.
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Illustration (c) Chris Shields