Heather ( Calluna vulgaris)

The heather ( Calluna vulgaris ), also called heather, is the only species of the monotypic genus Calluna, belongs to the family of the heather family ( Ericaceae ). It is a defining species of the heath. The genus name derives from the Greek word for kallyno " I clean, sweep " from.


The woody and evergreen dwarf shrub grows relatively slowly and may be about 40 years old. Its height is 30 to 100 inches, the latter requires an undisturbed development. The heather is a deep-rooting with a endotrophic mycorrhiza from the Ericaceae type. It differs from the related and partly quite similar Erica species by scaly applied to the twigs and upward curled, leathery leaves, which are only a few millimeters long. Stomata are located only on the underside of leaves and are protected by hair. The heather blooms from late summer to autumn, white and pink to purple. The nodding flowers are in a dense, racemose inflorescence. The hermaphrodite, fourfold single flowers have a length of 1 to about 4 mm. The four Kron and sepals are colored the same; the latter are twice as long as the rather inconspicuous crown. There are eight stamens present. The anthers have two horn-like appendages. To release the pollen, they open by terminal pores. The flower of the heather is pollinated by insects. The insects visit numerous. When Heather starts with the Blühreife 4 years. The heather blooms from late summer to autumn. The seeds of many-seeded capsule fruit are spread as granules flyer on the wind.


Way of life

It can be typical life cycles of Calluna vulgaris differ, each harboring their own communities: In the pioneering phase, the heather grows very patchy and rarely reaches heights of 10-15 cm. In the build phase is gradually achieved by an almost complete coverage, the bloom is very abundant, the plants are up to 40 cm high. This phase is most favorable for sheep farming, beekeeping and tourism. In the maturity stage the Calluna increasingly lignified and is no longer dogged by sheep. It is ( in an undisturbed development ) now 60 to 100 cm high and lights, mosses and grasses invade increasingly. In the degeneration phase, the plants die from the center, but can at the same time rooting new on overlapping branches. It caused typical ringlike structures with a central gap.


The leathery leaves roll whose stomata are protected on the underside of leaves with hairs are interpreted as an adaptation performance of nitrogen- poor soils ( Peinomorphose ).

Pollination Ecology

The flowers are " bell flowers with spreading device " (but without scattering cone ). Her acting effect is due to the long lasting receive sepals; the inconspicuous petals are meaningless in this regard. The stamens are already open in the bud. The nectar is easily accessible and there is a lively visit from insects instead, especially frequent visitors are the ocher yellow blade tensioner, the honey bee ( heather honey ) and butterflies. Pollination is by the tiny thrips species Thaeniothrips ericae ( " Gewitterwürmchen " ) possible. The females fly in search of the wingless males from flower to flower and pollinate the flowers by. Also, wind pollination is possible. When the insects visiting omitted to extend the stamens and it is abundant pollen transfer with the wind.

Dispersal ecology

The fruits are loculicidal capsules that remain hidden in the chalice. The tiny, 1.5 mm long, but still long-lived seeds are shaken by the wind and spread as granules flyer. Fruit ripening is from March to April of the following year. The seeds are light to germinate and their germination is particularly promoted by not too strong fires.

Vegetative reproduction occurs occasionally be bewurzelnde branches ( countershaft transmission ).


The heather is a feed plant for many species of butterflies and their caterpillars, including endangered species such as the pine heath bag carrier, the heather - Bunteule, the green moorland tensioner or the comma Dickkopffalter.


Of course, spreading the heather is in Europe with a focus in Central and Northern Europe, in the East it comes to Western Siberia. Especially frequently it is in glacially influenced areas. Scottish immigrants introduced the heather in the 19th century to Canada. Since then she spreads in North America, is recognized as a neophyte.

The heather is considered acid pointer. Of course you happen to sunny to bright locations, primarily on non-calcareous sands. It prefers to grow on dry, but also to periodically wet soils, for example in corresponding areas of bogs. Habitat are pagans, bogs, dunes, sparse forests. The deposits extend from the plains to altitudes of 2700 m.


The heather is in beekeeping for honey bees is an important, because their nectar contains 24 % sugar, mainly sucrose, and each flower produces an average of 0.12 mg daily sugar ( glucose ). The heather honey extracted by bees from their nectar is characterized by a gelatinous consistency.

The heather is for wild plants gardens recommended and suitable for planting sandy slopes.

The heather is also a popular ornamental plant that is cultivated as a " Calluna heath " or " summer Heather" in about 10,000 varieties with very different flowering times and colors of the flowers and leaves. Are popular among other things also varieties that up into the winter a large number of closed lasting flowers in bud ( buds Gentiles ) because they give the impression that the plants bloom in the winter.

Cultivars are eg Beoley Crimson ( crimson flowers), Boskoop ( bright purple ), cuprea ( copper-colored ), Firefly (dark purple ) and Long White (white).