Calluna
Overview
 
Calluna vulgaris is the sole species in the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Calluna in the family Ericaceae
Ericaceae
The Ericaceae, commonly known as the heath or heather family, is a group of mostly calcifuge flowering plants. The family is large, with roughly 4000 species spread across 126 genera, making it the 14th most speciose family of flowering plants...

. It is a low-growing perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 shrub
Shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

 growing to 20 to 50 cm (7.9 to 19.7 in) tall, or rarely to 1 metres (39.4 in) and taller, and is found widely in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 on acid
Acid
An acid is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH of less than 7, where an acid of lower pH is typically stronger, and turn blue litmus paper red...

ic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade. It is the dominant plant in most heathland
Heath (habitat)
A heath or heathland is a dwarf-shrub habitat found on mainly low quality acidic soils, characterised by open, low growing woody vegetation, often dominated by plants of the Ericaceae. There are some clear differences between heath and moorland...

 and moorland
Moorland
Moorland or moor is a type of habitat, in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, found in upland areas, characterised by low-growing vegetation on acidic soils and heavy fog...

 in Europe, and in some bog
Bog
A bog, quagmire or mire is a wetland that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses or, in Arctic climates, lichens....

 vegetation and acidic pine
Pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

 and oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 woodland.
Encyclopedia
Calluna vulgaris is the sole species in the genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Calluna in the family Ericaceae
Ericaceae
The Ericaceae, commonly known as the heath or heather family, is a group of mostly calcifuge flowering plants. The family is large, with roughly 4000 species spread across 126 genera, making it the 14th most speciose family of flowering plants...

. It is a low-growing perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 shrub
Shrub
A shrub or bush is distinguished from a tree by its multiple stems and shorter height, usually under 5–6 m tall. A large number of plants may become either shrubs or trees, depending on the growing conditions they experience...

 growing to 20 to 50 cm (7.9 to 19.7 in) tall, or rarely to 1 metres (39.4 in) and taller, and is found widely in Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 and Asia Minor
Asia Minor
Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

 on acid
Acid
An acid is a substance which reacts with a base. Commonly, acids can be identified as tasting sour, reacting with metals such as calcium, and bases like sodium carbonate. Aqueous acids have a pH of less than 7, where an acid of lower pH is typically stronger, and turn blue litmus paper red...

ic soils in open sunny situations and in moderate shade. It is the dominant plant in most heathland
Heath (habitat)
A heath or heathland is a dwarf-shrub habitat found on mainly low quality acidic soils, characterised by open, low growing woody vegetation, often dominated by plants of the Ericaceae. There are some clear differences between heath and moorland...

 and moorland
Moorland
Moorland or moor is a type of habitat, in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, found in upland areas, characterised by low-growing vegetation on acidic soils and heavy fog...

 in Europe, and in some bog
Bog
A bog, quagmire or mire is a wetland that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses or, in Arctic climates, lichens....

 vegetation and acidic pine
Pine
Pines are trees in the genus Pinus ,in the family Pinaceae. They make up the monotypic subfamily Pinoideae. There are about 115 species of pine, although different authorities accept between 105 and 125 species.-Etymology:...

 and oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 woodland. It is tolerant of grazing and regenerates following occasional burning, and is often managed in nature reserves and grouse
Grouse
Grouse are a group of birds from the order Galliformes. They are sometimes considered a family Tetraonidae, though the American Ornithologists' Union and many others include grouse as a subfamily Tetraoninae in the family Phasianidae...

 moor
Moorland
Moorland or moor is a type of habitat, in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome, found in upland areas, characterised by low-growing vegetation on acidic soils and heavy fog...

s by sheep or cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 grazing, and also by light burning.

Referred to Erica
Erica
Erica ,the heaths or heathers, is a genus of approximately 860 species of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae. The English common names "heath" and "heather" are shared by some closely related genera of similar appearance....

in all the old references, Calluna was separated from the closely related genus Erica by Richard Anthony Salisbury
Richard Anthony Salisbury
Richard Anthony Salisbury FRS was a British botanist. While he is remembered as a valuable worker in horticultural and botanical sciences, several bitter disputes caused him to be ostracised by his contemporaries.-Life:...

, who devised the generic name Calluna from the Greek kallunein, "to sweep up", in reference to its traditional use in besoms. The specific epithet
Binomial nomenclature
Binomial nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages...

 vulgaris is Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 for 'common'. Calluna is differentiated from Erica by its corolla and calyx each being in four parts instead of five. Calluna has even smaller scale-leaves (less than 2–3 mm long). The flowers emerge in late summer; in wild plants these are normally mauve, but white-flower
Flower
A flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants . The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs...

ed plants also occur occasionally. Unlike Erica, Calluna sometimes sports double flowers. Calluna is sometimes referred to as "Summer (or Autumn) Heather" to distinguish it from Erica
Erica
Erica ,the heaths or heathers, is a genus of approximately 860 species of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae. The English common names "heath" and "heather" are shared by some closely related genera of similar appearance....

 ("Winter (or Spring) Heather").

Cultivation

Despised until the 19th century for its associations with the most rugged rural poverty, heather's growth in popularity may be paralleled with the vogue for alpine plant
Alpine plant
Alpine plants are plants that grow in the alpine climate, which occurs at high elevation and above the tree line. Alpine plants grow together as a plant community in alpine tundra.-Alpine plant diversity:...

s. It is a very popular ornamental plant
Ornamental plant
Ornamental plants are plants that are grown for decorative purposes in gardens and landscape design projects, as house plants, for cut flowers and specimen display...

 in garden
Garden
A garden is a planned space, usually outdoors, set aside for the display, cultivation, and enjoyment of plants and other forms of nature. The garden can incorporate both natural and man-made materials. The most common form today is known as a residential garden, but the term garden has...

s and for landscaping, in lime-free areas where it will thrive, but has defeated many a gardener on less acid soil. There are many named cultivar
Cultivar
A cultivar'Cultivar has two meanings as explained under Formal definition. When used in reference to a taxon, the word does not apply to an individual plant but to all those plants sharing the unique characteristics that define the cultivar. is a plant or group of plants selected for desirable...

s, selected for variation in flower colour and for different foliage colour and growing habits.

Different cultivars have flower colours ranging from white, through pink and a wide range of purples, and including reds. The flowering season with different cultivars extends from late July to November in the northern hemisphere. The flowers may turn brown but still remain on the plants over winter, and this can lead to interesting decorative effects.

Cultivars with ornamental foliage are usually selected for reddish and golden leaf colour. A few forms can be silvery grey. Many of the ornamental foliage forms change colour with the onset of winter weather, usually increasing in intensity of colour. Some forms are grown for distinctive young spring foliage.

The plant was introduced to New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 and has become an invasive weed
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 in some areas, notably the Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park
Tongariro National Park is the oldest national park in New Zealand, located in the central North Island. It has been acknowledged by UNESCO as one of the 28 mixed cultural and natural World Heritage Sites....

 on the North Island and the Wilderness Reserve (Te Anau) on the South Island, overgrowing native plants. Heather beetles
Lochmaea suturalis
Lochmaea suturalis, commonly referred to as the heather beetle, is a beetle of the genus Lochmaea native to north-west Europe. It feeds upon heather. They are difficult to spot as they are camouflaged with a brownish colour, and are about long. They have a tendency to hide, and they drop into the...

 have been released to stop the heather, with preliminary trials successful to date.

Cultivars include ‘Beoley Crimson’ (Crimson red), ‘Boskoop’ (light purple), ‘Cuprea’ (copper), 'Firefly' (deep mauve),‘Long White’ (white).

Uses

Heather is an important food source for various sheep and deer which can graze the tips of the plants when snow covers low-growing vegetation. Willow Grouse
Willow Grouse
The Willow Ptarmigan , also known as the Willow Grouse, is a bird of the grouse subfamily. It is a sedentary species, breeding in birch and other forests and moorlands in the tundra of Scandinavia, Siberia, Alaska, northern Canada, in particular the province of Newfoundland and Labrador...

 and Red Grouse
Red grouse
The Red Grouse is a medium sized bird of the grouse family which is found in heather moorland in Great Britain and Ireland. It is usually classified as a subspecies of the Willow Grouse but is sometimes considered to be a separate species Lagopus scoticus...

 feed on the young shoots and seeds of this plant. Both adult and larva
Larva
A larva is a distinct juvenile form many animals undergo before metamorphosis into adults. Animals with indirect development such as insects, amphibians, or cnidarians typically have a larval phase of their life cycle...

 of the Heather Beetle Lochmaea suturalis
Lochmaea suturalis
Lochmaea suturalis, commonly referred to as the heather beetle, is a beetle of the genus Lochmaea native to north-west Europe. It feeds upon heather. They are difficult to spot as they are camouflaged with a brownish colour, and are about long. They have a tendency to hide, and they drop into the...

 feed on it, and can cause extensive mortality in some instances. The larvae of a number of Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera
Lepidoptera is a large order of insects that includes moths and butterflies . It is one of the most widespread and widely recognizable insect orders in the world, encompassing moths and the three superfamilies of butterflies, skipper butterflies, and moth-butterflies...

 species also feed on the plant.

Formerly heather was used to dye wool yellow and to tan leather. With malt
Malt
Malt is germinated cereal grains that have been dried in a process known as "malting". The grains are made to germinate by soaking in water, and are then halted from germinating further by drying with hot air...

 heather is an ingredient in gruit
Gruit
Gruit is an old-fashioned herb mixture used for bittering and flavoring beer, popular before the extensive use of hops. Gruit or grut ale may also refer to the beverage produced using gruit....

, a mixture of flavourings used in the brewing of heather-beer
Beer in Scotland
Beer has been produced in Scotland for approximately 5,000 years. The Celtic tradition of using bittering herbs remained in Scotland longer than the rest of Europe. The two main cities of Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh, are where, historically, the main breweries developed; and Edinburgh, in...

 during the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 before the use of hops
Hops
Hops are the female flower clusters , of a hop species, Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer, to which they impart a bitter, tangy flavor, though hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine...

. Thomas Pennant
Thomas Pennant
Thomas Pennant was a Welsh naturalist and antiquary.The Pennants were a Welsh gentry family from the parish of Whitford, Flintshire, who had built up a modest estate at Bychton by the seventeenth century...

 wrote in A Tour in Scotland (1769) that on the Scottish island of Islay
Islay
-Prehistory:The earliest settlers on Islay were nomadic hunter-gatherers who arrived during the Mesolithic period after the retreat of the Pleistocene ice caps. In 1993 a flint arrowhead was found in a field near Bridgend dating from 10,800 BC, the earliest evidence of a human presence found so far...

 "ale is frequently made of the young tops of heath, mixing two thirds of that plant with one of malt, sometimes adding hops". The use of heather in the brewing of modern heather beer is carefully regulated. By law the heather must be cleaned carefully before brewing, as the undersides of the leaves may contain a dusting of an ergot
Ergot
Ergot or ergot fungi refers to a group of fungi of the genus Claviceps. The most prominent member of this group is Claviceps purpurea. This fungus grows on rye and related plants, and produces alkaloids that can cause ergotism in humans and other mammals who consume grains contaminated with its...

-like fungus, which is a hallucinogenic intoxicant.

Heather honey
Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

 is a highly valued product in moorland and heathland areas, with many beehives being moved there in late summer. Not always as valued as it is today, and dismissed as mel improbum by Dioscurides. heather honey has a characteristic strong taste, and an unusual texture, for it is thixotropic, being a jelly
Gel
A gel is a solid, jelly-like material that can have properties ranging from soft and weak to hard and tough. Gels are defined as a substantially dilute cross-linked system, which exhibits no flow when in the steady-state...

 until stirred, when it becomes a syrup
Syrup
In cooking, a syrup is a thick, viscous liquid consisting primarily of a solution of sugar in water, containing a large amount of dissolved sugars but showing little tendency to deposit crystals...

 like other honey, but then sets again to a jelly. This makes the extraction
Honey extraction
Honey extraction is the central process in beekeeping of removing honey from honeycomb so that it is isolated in a pure liquid form.Normally, the honey is stored by the bees on a very regular honeycomb they build on a frame. The frames are typically harvested late summer, when they will be most...

 of the honey from the comb difficult, and it is therefore often sold as comb honey
Comb honey
Comb honey is honey, intended for consumption, which still contains pieces of the hexagonal-shaped beeswax cells of the honeycomb.Before the invention of the honey extractor almost all honey produced was in the form of comb honey...

.

White heather is regarded in Scotland as being lucky, a tradition brought from Balmoral
Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle is a large estate house in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It is located near the village of Crathie, west of Ballater and east of Braemar. Balmoral has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen Victoria and her...

 to England by Queen Victoria. and sprigs of it are often sold as a charm and worked into bridal bouquets.

Cultural references

Heather is seen as iconic of Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, where the plant grows widely. When poems like Bonnie Auld Scotland speak of "fragrant hills of purple heather', when the hero of Kidnapped
Kidnapped (novel)
Kidnapped is a historical fiction adventure novel by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. Written as a "boys' novel" and first published in the magazine Young Folks from May to July 1886, the novel has attracted the praise and admiration of writers as diverse as Henry James, Jorge Luis...

 flees through the heather, when heather and Scotland are linked in the same sentence, the heather talked about is Calluna vulgaris.

The Robert E. Howard story "Kings of the Night" frequently references heather when describing a portion of what would become Great Britain.

See also

  • List of Lepidoptera that feed on Calluna
  • Heath (habitat)
    Heath (habitat)
    A heath or heathland is a dwarf-shrub habitat found on mainly low quality acidic soils, characterised by open, low growing woody vegetation, often dominated by plants of the Ericaceae. There are some clear differences between heath and moorland...

    .
  • Erica
    Erica
    Erica ,the heaths or heathers, is a genus of approximately 860 species of flowering plants in the family Ericaceae. The English common names "heath" and "heather" are shared by some closely related genera of similar appearance....

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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