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European Heathers - Walk in Africa
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Walk in Africa / Flowers  / European Heathers
22 Aug

European Heathers

Today I take a step out of my comfort zone! Earlier in the day my friend Patrick Verbraecken from Belgium sent me a photograph of a heather that he had encountered on one of his walks. Patrick has been walking with me on Table Mountain (and i

s a complete africa-phile) and knows my love of fynbos, so he sent me this photograph.

This is an intriguing plant for me. I believe (and perhaps someone can confirm this for me) that this is Calluna vulgaris, the common heather.  The heathers all belong to the family E

ricaceae and here in the Cape we have many beautiful representatives of the family. We all know how proud the Scots are of their Heathers, and justifiably too. What many people don't know is that while Scotland has four species of heather, the cape floral region has about 650 species of heather!

Most of the heathers belong to the genus Erica, but the common heather is the only species in the genus Calluna. Like most of the Ericas. the common heather prefers acidic soils and this is the most famous if the Scots heathers. It gained its favour in Scotland not only for its beauty but also for its many uses, too many to mention here. Suffice it to say that this heather was stuffed in fabric to make mattresses, was used to dye wool, was used to make brooms, was used medicinally and perhaps most important was used as an essential ingredient in the brewing of heather beer.

Thanks to Patrick for sharing this beautiful heather with us.