Quick guide to identifying heathers in our local heathland

It may not trouble you or yours, to be able to identify the different heathers in our local heathland. But, should you be interested, here’s a quick guide to the three species you’ll see on your heathland walks. To start the guide, here’s a photo of bell heather [in the centre] surrounded by ling, yet to come into full flower.

Ling surrounds Bell heather in centre

Now, a brief guide to the three types of heather in our heathland. Click on images to expand. If you do so, you’ll be able to spot the different leaf patterns. The hard bit is remembering them.

Bell heather – Erica cinerea: It thrives throughout Britain on moors and heathland having relatively dry, acidic, and nutrient poor soils. The small dark-purple-pink bell-shaped drooping flowers are borne in compact clusters at the ends of its shoots. Its leaves are short, dark green, and needle-like, and borne in whorls of three.

My photo of bell heather in full bloom was taken at the side of the track on Hangmoor Hill.

Bell heather - Erica cinera

Cross-leaved heath – Erica tetralix: Cross-leaved heath grows in damp and boggy heathland, whereas bell heather thrives in drier parts of the heathland.  It’s petals are very pale pink in colour and the grey-green leaves are in whorls of four.

I photographed the cross-leaved heath in Folly Bog.

Cross-leaved heath - Erica tetralix

Ling or commonly referred to as heather  – Calluna vulgaris: Ling is the commonest of the several species of heather on heathland, and moors having acidic soils. The delicate pink-purple [mauve] flowers grow loosely up the stem. The short, narrow leaves are borne in rows.

The plant is abundant on Hangmoor Hill, where my photo was taken.

Ling - Calluna vulgaris

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