Weed Identification

Australia > > Plant Form - Shrub > Heather


Calluna vulgaris


Family: Ericaceae.

Form: Shrub

Origin: Native of Europe, Asia and northern Africa.

Flowers/Seedhead: Solitary, axillary, in leafy racemes; sepals and petals purple to white. Flowers summer and autumn.

Description: Evergreen perennial shrub to 50 (rarely 100) cm high. Branches many, initially hairy, hairless with age. Leaves linear to triangular, hairless or hairy, in 4 rows, those on short non-flowering shoots overlapping. Fruit enclosed by persistent corolla. Seeds 0.50.7 mm long, numerous, strongly network-patterned.

Distinguishing features: Distinguished by opposite sessile leaves 1.53.5 mm long; 4 petal-like sepals 24 mm long, petals joined in a bell-shaped corolla and shorter than the sepals; stamens 8; fruit an almost spherical densely hairy capsule, 22.5 mm wide, that opens along the seams.

Dispersal: Spread by seed and vegetatively.

Dense cluster of flowers & leaves,
Ireland, Sept.

Notes: In its native range it grows on acid soils, which are generally low in nutrients. A major weed in Tongariro National Park and neighbouring areas in New Zealand, where it displaces native plants in tussock grassland and shrub land communities. Escape from cultivation in Tasmania. Seed can persist in soil for at least 33 years. Many varieties are grown in cultivation. Biological control of heather is being attempted in New Zealand using the heather beetle, Lochnea suturalis.


    Flora of New Zealand. C.Webb et al., 1988, Vol. 4, pages 607608. An Illustrated guide to common weeds in New Zealand. Roy et al., 1988, page 136.

Purple sepals with smaller purple petals inside.

Dense clumps, Tongariro NP, New Zealand.
Photo J. R. Hosking.

This weed has been included in the WEEDeck field guide as card S31

More information about WEEDeck is available from Sainty & Associates Pty. Ltd.


Australia > > Plant Form - Shrub > Heather


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