Ericaceae . . . . . Heather family

Shrubby plants, usually growing in boggy or impoverished heathland; either with needle-like leaves or flat tough leaves (mostly evergreen except bilberry/blaeberry).

Other genera include Gaultheria (Shallons) which are sometimes naturalised.


Choose by leaf shape/plant size from: Needle lvs,   Broad lvs,    Large shrubs,   or Pale saprophyte with scales only :



Needle-leaved (or narrow-lvd) species:

Bell Heather
bBell Heather
Cross-leaved Heath
Cross-leaved Heath
Cornish Heath
Crowberry
Calluna
Blue Heath
Winter Heather
Tree Heather
St Dabeoc's Heath
Bog Rosemary


Broad-leaved (flat-leaved) species (though some lvs quite small)

Trailing Azalea
Trailing Azalea
Cranberry
Cranberry
Northern Bilberry
Northern Bilberry
Blaeberry/Bilberry
Blaeberry/Bilberry
Cowberry
Cowberry
Bearberry
Bearberry
Alpine Bearberry
Alpine Bearberry
Serrated Wintergreen
Serrated Wintergreen
Common Wintergreen
Common Wintergreen
Intermediate Wintergreen
Round-leaved Wintergreen
P. minor has stigma in flower with style parallel sided and is pinker than the bigger P. media; P. rotundifolia has curved style

Large shrubs (growing more than 1 m):

Strawberry-tree
Strawberry-tree
Wild Rhododendron
Rhododendron

Tree Heather
Portuguese Heath

Other possibly confused spp. include Escallonia


Andromeda . . . . Bog Rosemary

Andromeda polifolia . . . . Bog Rosemary

Local on sphagnum bogs esp. in N En

Arbutus . . . . Strawberry-tree

Arbutus unedo . . . . Strawberry-tree

In scrubland W Ire, naturalised in a few other places e.g. CI

Arctostaphylos . . . . . Bearberry

Arctostaphylos alpinus . . . . Alpine Bearberry

Very local in N & W Sc

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi . . . . Bearberry

R.H. image shows it hiding behind V. uliginosum; locally common in N of Br and Ire, esp. in N Sc

Calluna . . . . . Ling or Heather

Calluna vulgaris . . . . Ling or Heather

Abundant on heaths through BI

Daboecia . . . . . St. Dabeoc's Heath

Daboecia cantabrica . . . . St. Dabeoc's Heath

4 sepals/petals; native in W Ire but escaped from gardens elsewhere

Empetrum . . . . . Crowberry

Empetrum nigrum . . . . Crowberry

Common on peaty and rocky moors and mountains; down to sea level in Sc

E. nigrum subsp hermaphroditum . . . . Hermaphrodite Crowberry

Usually at higher altitudes (esp. N & Sc)

Erica . . . . . Heather

A number of other spp. and hybrids occur, esp. in SW En and in Ire

Tree heathers:


Erica arborea . . . . Tree Heather

A shrub to 3 m tall; fl <4mm, stigma red; a garden escape

Erica lusitanica . . . . Portuguese Heath

A similar shrub to 3 m tall; fl >4mm, stigma white; more common than the above

Erica carnea . . . . Winter-flowering Heather

The typical winter-flowering heather widely cultivated in gardens; the ridge extending from one leaf down to the next is diagnostic

Erica cinerea . . . . Bell Heather

Dry heaths throughout BI

Erica tetralix . . . . Cross-leaved Heath

Bogs and damp heaths throughout BI

Erica vagans . . . . Cornish Heath

Very local on dry heaths esp. on Lizard, but commonly cultivated

Hypopitys . . . . . Bird's-nest

Hypopitys monotropa . . . . Yellow Bird's-nest

A saprophyte mainly in beech or pine woods, scattered esp. in S and W Br tho' N to C Sc and in Ire. (Photos - James Kirby)

Kalmia (was Loiseleuria) . . . . Trailing Azalea

A few other Kalmia spp. have been introduced in a few places

Kalmia procumbens . . . . Trailing Azalea

Local on acid mountains above c. 400m in Sc

Moneses . . . One-flowered wintergreen

Moneses uniflora . . . . One-flowered Wintergreen

Very local in pinewoods of NE Sc

Orthilia . . . Serrated wintergreen

Orthilia secunda . . . Serrated Wintergreen

Woods and damp rocks, local esp. from N En to N Sc

Phyllodoce . . . Blue Heath

Phyllodoce caerulea . . . Blue Heath

5 sepals/petals; rare in Mid Sc or a garden escape

Pyrola . . . . Wintergreens

P. minor has stigma not extending from flower with style parallel sided and flower pinker than the bigger P. media


Pyrola media . . . . Intermediate Wintergreen

Frequent in C and N Sc, rare elsewhere; style 4-6 mm extending from flower

Pyrola minor . . . Common Wintergreen

Woods and peaty moors scattered in most of BI; style 1-2 mm within flower

Pyrola rotundifolia . . . Round-leaved Wintergreen

Rather local

Rhododendron . . . . . Rhododendron

Rhododendron ponticum . . . . Rhododendron

Naturalised esp. in Wa and W by seeding and suckering, can be very invasive; a number of other spp. may be relics of cultivation

Vaccinium . . . . .


Note differences between V. myrtillus, V. uliginosum & V. vitis-idaea:


Vaccinium myrtillus . . . . Blaeberry, Bilberry, Blueberry

Common on heaths, moors and woodland exc. C & E En; Stems angled, lvs finely toothed

Vaccinium uliginosum . . . . Bog or Northern Bilberry

Moorland esp. N & C Sc; stems round, lvs smooth edged

Vaccinium oxycoccos . . . . Cranberry

Locally frequent in bogs exc. extreme S and N; petals >5.5mm


See also V. microcarpum (Small Cranberry), a rare plant of N Sc, petals <5.5mm:

Vaccinium vitis-idaea . . . . Cowberry

Ever-green; Moors, locally abundant esp. in N


Comparison of Arctostaphylos uva-ursae lvs (L) and V. vitis-ideae (R) in each pic.; underside in R pic.