Scientific Name: Erica spp.
Common Names: Heath (sometimes called heather)
Plant Type: Evergreen shrubs
Environment: Prefer acidic soil, but can handle neutral soils as well. Soil preferences range from dry, sandy, to extremely wet. Most prefer sunny exposure.
Bloom: Flowers are borne in clusters as terminal umbels or spikes, with individual bell or urn-shaped flowers usually facing outward or downward.
Uses: Popular in gardens for their mass flowering, many species producing color throughout the year
Erica spp. can be found:
South African Beds 27, 32, 42
Garden of Fragrance Bed 12A
Exhibition Garden Bed 3M
With thousands of tiny flowers and evergreen leaves, several of the Garden's Erica species provide a welcome respite in a period of the year when many other plants are dormant or otherwise not at their colorful peak.
Consisting of hundreds of species, Erica species are found in the wild from South Africa to Europe, all the way to West and Central Asia. Most of the world's species are found in the fynbos of the Western and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. The term "fynbos" is Dutch for "fine-leaved plants;" depending on locality, heaths can comprise a significant portion of the flora.
Erica species are prostrate to tree-like, with most species forming shrubs up to 6 feet tall. A relative of rhododendrons and azaleas, heath species have a very similar flower color spectrum. Including whites, pinks, red, purples, and yellows, their bell- to urn-shaped flowers are borne terminally in racemes comprised of up to hundreds of flowers, depending on the species. Flowers occur on growth from the previous year and can present in most seasons of the year, again differing by species.
Most heaths prefer well-drained, acidic soil in open sun. Water requirements can vary significantly by species. They originate from mostly temperate areas, and even as prostrate ground covers and small shrubs they comprise the overstory in their environments.
With the Garden's South African heaths and aloes, Asian magnolias and camellias, and Mesoamerican Cloud Forest giant groundsels and melastomes, among many other gems, January's international floral display isn't to be missed!
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS: Text and Profile by Mona Bourell. Photos by Mona Bourell and Saxon Holt.