Field of heather growing on Kirkby Moor


Calluna vulgaris

Key Facts

  • Height: up to 90cm

Heather is also known as ‘Ling’ and is an abundant plant on heathland, moors, bogs and even in woodland with acidic or peat soils.

Its delicate pink flowers appear from July to October and are a contrast to the tough, wiry, sprawling stems they grow upon. Plants grow tightly-packed together and can live for up to 40 years.

How to Identify

The stems of Heather are woody and coarse, sometimes clumped together and close to the ground in exposed areas. The delicate pink flowers grow loosely up the stem and the short, narrow leaves are borne in rows.

Where to find

Common in the UK and Ireland, but scarcer in the east of England.

How people can help

Purple-carpeted heaths are an iconic feature of the UK’s landscape and are the result of hundreds of years of low-impact human activities such as livestock-grazing and scrub clearance. Yet development and the decline of traditional farming methods have caused many of these precious habitats to be lost – over 80% of lowland heathland in the UK has disappeared in just 200 years. The Wildlife Trusts manage many heathland habitats for the benefit of wildlife; by volunteering for your local Trust you can help too, and you’ll make new friends and learn new skills along the way.

Did you know?

Historically, Heather has been used for many purposes including as fuel, fodder, building materials, thatch, packing and ropes. It was also once used to make brooms which is how it got its Latin name: Calluna is derived from the Greek word meaning ‘to brush’.

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