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Common heather

Calluna vulgaris


Common heather, or ling as it is also known, is a small bushy shrub in the heather family, Ericaceae, and is the only species in the genus Calluna. It is woody-stemmed and evergreen, and typically grows up to 60 cm. tall, although in good conditions it can reach 100 cm in height. Each shrub has multiple branches, which are often intertwined. The branches can take root individually at their bases, and have numerous short side shoots. The leaves are 1 - 3 mm. long, stalk-less and grow in four vertical rows on the branches. They are tightly packed together on the side shoots, but more openly spaced on the main branches. The leaves are scale-like in appearance, with the edges curling in, and are dark green in colour, with reddish-brown tips when they are new. Common heather begins flowering in July, reaching a peak in August, when whole hillsides turn purple from the colour of the blossoms. Some flowers persist into September or even early October. The flowers are bell-shaped, and consist of four petals that are fused at the base, forming a tube-like shape that is about 2 mm in diameter, and grow on leafy spikes or stalks that are 3 - 13 cm. in height. They are pinkish-purple in colour, although plants with white flowers do occur occasionally. Flowering is prolific, with each plant producing several thousand individual blossoms, and this, together with its abundance in moorland, is what enables Common heather to colour whole landscapes.


Common heather 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.


Spotted in National Park De Hoge Veluwe, Holland.

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Spotted by

Gelderland, Netherlands

Spotted on Sep 8, 2014
Submitted on Sep 8, 2014

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