Cape heaths and other African species


Erica baueri subsp. baueri

Flowers white, pink or combinations of both, tubular in shape and grouped in attractive clusters near the ends of the branches; foliage small grey-green; habit sparse, upright woody; height up to 1.5m. Common name is Bridal heath.

First published 1805 in H.C. Andrews's Heathery. He named it after his fellow artist at Kew, Francis Bauer (1758 - 1810) who was botanical artist to King George III.

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Erica blenna

Flowers bright orange with green tips and are sticky; IV-XI; foliage deep-green, neatly arranged around the stem, point upwards and are slightly curved at their ends; habit erect, woody; height 1.2-1.5 m.

Name from the Greek word blennos, which means mucous, referring to its sticky flowers.

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Erica canaliculata

Pale pink cup-shaped flowers in profusion, IVI; the flowers are usually grouped in threes and the colour is dependent on growing conditions, being much deeper if grown outside; height at least 1m; spread 46–60cm. This species can withstand –7°C air frosts but is destroyed by –11°C air frosts

Erica cerinthoides

Flowers red; V-X; foliage green; habit tall woody; height 1.5m if not burnt.

The "Fire Erica", is one of a few Ericas that resprout from a woody rootstock after fire. The result is the production of clusters of lovely inflated, tubular, red flowers at the ends of short branches, which form neat, colourful shrublets in a bleak burnt landscape. Fire thus keeps this plant in good healthy condition and will stimulate flowering at any time of the year. After a number of years they will grow taller, become straggly and produce fewer flowers.

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Erica cruenta

Curved blood-red flowers 3cm long in sprays of 30cm or more; blooms over a long period from VIII–I, and appears to be hardier than most; height 75–100cm; spread 46–60cm. It benefits from frequent pruning in the first two years.

Erica curviflora

Masses of yellow to orange to dark red curved tubular flowers 2-3cm long, flared at the mouth; anthers without awns or with very short awns, VIII–XII; neat compact shrub; height 75–100cm; spread 46–60cm Loves moist conditions, as indicated by its names waterbos and waterheide. Requires plenty of air during winter.

Erica discolor

Flowers tubular, about 2cm-2.5cm long, usually rosy pink or red with yellow or white tips; anthers with long awns. It tends to flower at any time of the year, most prolific X–XII; height 100-200cm; spread 100–200cm. Usually grows in drier places.

Erica glandulosa subsp. glandulosa

Flowers curved and tubular, between 18 and 26 mm long, shiny and semi-translucent, normally pink to orange, but yellow-flowered forms are also found. It is a sturdy, medium-sized, single- to multi-stemmed, bushy shrub growing up to 1.5 m tall. Except for the flowers, it is covered with tiny glandular hairs, which give it a mildly sticky feel. The leaves are grouped on short side branches on sturdy stems giving the shrub an overall, thickly leafy appearance.

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Erica gracilis

Covered from top to bottom in 3mm urn-shaped flowers, usually in shades of magenta; XI; height 60–75cm. It cannot withstand severe frosts but even when dead, the flower retains colour for the remaining winter months. An extremely popular pot-plant in Europe which is used to decorate window-boxes and graveyards during the festivals of All Souls and All Saints (Halloween). Dyed plants are also now being marketed.

Erica mammosa

The flowers are inflated-tubular with a closed mouth and are 15–20 mm long; form dense spike-like inflorescences, up to 200 mm long, towards the tips of the main branches; borne singly or in pairs in the axil of a leaf; colour varies from locality to locality and from bush to bush, ranging from orange-red, purple, dark red, greenish cream, and white, to various shades of pink; bright attractive flowers can be found throughout the year but mainly in summer and autumn (December to April). After pollination the flowers dry, each holds a fruit with 4 locules/chambers containing numerous small seeds. The seeds are shed when ripe. Slow-growing and long-lived, robust, erect, well-branched shrub, 0.5–1.0 m tall, growing to a height of 1.8 m if left undisturbed. It has small, linear leaves, 6–10 mm long, arranged in whorls of 4 to 6.

Erica pageana

A compact heath having rich buttercup-yellow flowers, 8mm long, IV–VI; height to 45cm. Although it grows naturally in marshy conditions, it does not like cold, damp conditions. The plant must be kept above –5°C.

Erica patersonii

Bright, golden yellow, waxy, tubular flowers are arranged in closely packed spikes on the middle to upper section of the stem; foliage dark green, tufts of needle-like leaves densely cover the branches; habit open erect, sparsely branched shrub growing up to 1 m tall.

The flowering stem resembles corn on the cob, which gives it its common name, mielie heath. Branching occurs mainly at the base of the stem and is woody and often bare.

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Erica quadrangularis

Flowers are about 3mm long, in a wide range of colours from white to crimson; erect shrub reaching 60cm. Sometimes known as the Easter or Spring heather, this species very floriferous and rightly popular particularly in north America. Like all Cape heaths, it is best kept in a light, moist environment which is frost-free. Only very light pruning is required immediately after flowering.

Erica racemosa

Distinctive species with the grey-green foliage and light pink urn-shaped flowers, 3–4mm long, with dark brown anthers; blooms throughout the summer; rounded upright habit; height 46–60cm; spread 46–60cm. Prefers moist well-drained soil. Not frost hardy.

Erica speciosa

Bright crimson flowers often display pale green, white or yellow lobes; XII-III; foliage green, simple leaves are whorled, linear, entire and petiolate; habit erect; height 80-120 cms. Erica speciosa can be seen high in the Swartberg Mountains in large drifts forming shrubby stands over a metre in height.

Erica speciosa was first described by Henry Charles Andrews in 1804.

See Heather Society Yearbook 1998 page 31 for some more information about this species.

Erica subdivaricata

Masses of scented white flowers, 2–4mm long, X–XII; mid-green foliage; rounded bush; height 46–60cm; spread 46–60cm. It requires a frost-free environment.

Erica ventricosa

An erect shrub reaching 90cm; pink flowers are hard, dry and wax-like; about 15mm long. A very popular pot plant particularly in north America and Europe - it is presently being marketed as "Italian heather" which is a nonsensical marketing name of no significance.

Erica verticillata

A handsome, strong growing, hardy species averaging between 1.5 and 2 m in height, but old specimens have been recorded to grow up to 3 m tall. It produces beautiful pink, tubular flowers arranged in neat whorls organised in distinct groups up the principal stems and near the tips of sturdy branches. Peak flowering is from January to March, but this species produces some flowers intermittently throughout the year. It has been observed that inflorescences produced outside of the main flowering season are not as handsome as those produced during peak flowering as they tend to be arranged in a less orderly manner.

There are eight cultivars of Erica verticillata at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Each collection is recorded in the Kirstenbosch plant records database with a unique accession number. The various forms have also been endorsed with cultivar names and numbers by the international registrar of erica cultivar names, Dr Charles Nelson.