Erica arborea

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Erica arborea
Tree heath
Erica arborea JPG1.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Erica
Species: E. arborea
Binomial name
Erica arborea

Erica arborea (tree heath) is a species of flowering plant (angiosperms) in the heather family, Ericaceae. There are disjunct populations in Africa including the Ethiopian Highlands, the mountains of Ruwenzori and the Cameroon Mountains. In Africa it is normally referred to as giant heather. It is native to the maquis shrublands surrounding the Mediterranean Basin north to Bulgaria and west to Portugal and the Canary and Madeira Islands. Naturalised populations occur in south-eastern Australia.[1]

The wood, known as briar root (French: bruyère), is extremely hard and heat-resistant, and is used for making smoking pipes.


Erica arborea is an upright evergreen shrub or small tree with a typical height in the wild of some 7 m (23 ft), especially in Africa, but more typically 1–4 m (3–13 ft) in gardens, bearing dark green needle-like leaves and numerous small honey-scented bell-shaped white flowers. It is a calcifuge, preferring acid soil in an open sunny situation.[2]


Several cultivars and hybrids have been developed for garden use, of which the following have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:

  • 'Estrella Gold'[3] (gold-tipped leaves)
  • E. arborea var. alpina[4]
  • E. arborea var. alpina f. aureifolia 'Albert's Gold'[5] (gold-leaved)
  • E. × veitchii 'Exeter'[6] (E. arborea × E. lusitanica)

Other tall growing heaths, including the Portugal Heath (Erica lusitanica) and channel heath (Erica canaliculata) may also sometimes be called tree heath.


Briar pipes on a circular pipe rack

The wood, known as briar root (French: bruyère), is extremely hard, dense and heat-resistant, and is used for making smoking pipes. The football-sized tubers are harvested at the age of 30 to 60 years. They are cooked for several hours, then dried for several months before they are further processed. The wood is light brown to reddish brown, often beautifully textured, very hard, dense and heat-resistant and does not affect the aroma of pipe tobacco smoke.

The wood is also used for making jewelery, fountain pens and knife handles.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Erica arborea L". Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government. 
  2. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 1405332964. 
  3. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  4. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Erica arborea var. alpina". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  5. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Erica arborea var. alpina f. aureifolia 'Albert's Gold'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  6. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Erica × veitchii 'Exeter'". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  • Adams, W.M., A.S. Goudie & A. R. Orme (eds.) (1996): The Physical Geography of Africa. Page 55. Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]