Erica cinerea

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Erica cinerea
Bell Heather - - 493968.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Erica
E. cinerea
Binomial name
Erica cinerea

Erica cinerea, the bell heather,[2] is a species of flowering plant in the heath family Ericaceae, native to western and central Europe.

The plant provides a great deal of nectar for pollinators. It was rated in the top 5 for most nectar production (nectar per unit cover per year) in a UK plants survey conducted by the AgriLand project which is supported by the UK Insect Pollinators Initiative.[3]


It is a low, spreading shrub growing to 15–60 cm (5.9–23.6 in) tall, with fine needle-like leaves 4–8 mm (0.16–0.31 in) long arranged in whorls of three. The flowers are bell-shaped, purple (rarely white), 4–7 mm (0.16–0.28 in) long, produced in mid- to late summer. The flowers are dry, similar in texture to the strawflower.

The Latin specific epithet cinerea means "ash coloured".[4]


Erica cinerea is native to the west of Europe, where it is most abundant in Britain and Ireland, France, northern Spain and southern Norway. It also occurs in the Faroe Islands, Belgium, Germany, north-western Italy, and the Netherlands. It mostly occurs on moors and heathland with relatively dry, acidic, nutrient poor soils. It occurs in coastal dune heath and dune slack and occasionally in woodland. It is described as "of least concern" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.[5]


Bell heather is a source of heather honey.[6]

It is grown as an ornamental plant, cultivated in a wider range of colors. It is drought-tolerant and grows well in full sun with well-drained soil. Like most heathers, it is a calcifuge and dislikes alkaline soils (e.g. calcareous) which cause the symptoms of iron deficiency. Like other cultivated heathers, it is often seen as groundcover among plantings of dwarf conifers.[7]

These cultivars have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit:[8]

′Eden Valley′ has lavender flowers shading to white at the base of the corolla and a prostrate habit. The original plant was found on Trink Hill, Cornwall by Miss Gertrude Waterer.[13]


  1. ^ Khela, S. (2013). "Erica cinerea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T203006A2758531. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T203006A2758531.en. Retrieved 2 June 2021.
  2. ^ David Chapman (2008). Exploring the Cornish Coast. Penzance: Alison Hodge. p. 111. ISBN 9780906720561.
  3. ^ "Which flowers are the best source of nectar?". Conservation Grade. 2014-10-15. Archived from the original on 2019-12-14. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  4. ^ Harrison, Lorraine (2012). RHS Latin for gardeners. United Kingdom: Mitchell Beazley. p. 224. ISBN 9781845337315.
  5. ^ "Erica cinerea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013. 2013. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-2.RLTS.T203006A2758531.en.
  6. ^ "Bell Heather, Erica cinerea". Scottish Wildlife Trust.
  7. ^ RHS A-Z encyclopedia of garden plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. 2008. p. 1136. ISBN 978-1405332965.
  8. ^ "AGM Plants - Ornamental" (PDF). Royal Horticultural Society. July 2017. p. 36. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  9. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Erica cinerea 'C.D. Eason'". Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  10. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Erica cinerea 'Pink Ice'". Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  11. ^ "Erica cinerea 'Stephen Davis'". RHS. Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  12. ^ "RHS Plant Selector - Erica cinerea 'Velvet Night'". Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  13. ^ Fordham, Roy (2000). Eden Valley. In Ludgvan A Century of Horticulture 1903-2003. Ludgvan: Ludgvan Horticultural Society. pp. 25–8.

External links[edit]

Media related to Erica cinerea at Wikimedia Commons