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Bell heather (Erica tetralix), illustration

Bell heather ( Erica tetralix ), illustration

Nuclear eudicotyledons
Order : Heather-like (Ericales)
Family : Heather family (Ericaceae)
Genre : Heather
Scientific name

The heather ( Erica, v. Greek ereike 'Heide'), also called Heiden or Eriken , are a genus of plants from the heather family (Ericaceae), which includes around 860 species. The majority of them are based in South Africa, with only a few representatives reaching as far as Europe and the Middle East.

Colloquially, many dwarf shrubs in the heathland are called "heather" without actually belonging to the heather ( erica ). This applies also to the closely related heather ( Calluna vulgaris ), which often consisted formative plant is a heathland in Europe.


Heather are evergreen, prostrate shrubs and trees that can grow up to 10 meters tall. The pulp is even, the bud scales may be missing. Supporting and bracts are rare with the axillary shoot grown ( recauleszent ). The leaves are in whorls , rarely opposite or scattered.

The petals wither, but are permanent, the usually four, rarely one to five sepals are small and bract-like to large and colored, the mostly eight, rarely four to six or ten stamens have straight to S-shaped stamens , and in cross-section flattened to cylindrical spurs either at the extreme end of the stamens or on the back of the anthers . The pollen rarely form monads.

The easy-to rarely much thickened, cup-shaped or bent-back style is much longer than the ovary , often he lacks almost all or lapses. Scar flaps can be absent or well developed.

Usually they have four, rarely one to eight carpels with usually more than one ovule . The fruits are stone fruits and open lengthways along the outer walls (loculicidal) or not at all.

The number of chromosomes is n = 12, rarely n = 18.


Around 90% of the species in the genus are native to southern Africa , the other species are found in the rest of Africa, Madagascar , the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, the Middle East or Europe. They can be found from sea level to the Afroalpine level.


Atlantic gray heather ( Erica cinerea )
Erica glandulosa
Erica manipuliflora
Blooming bell heather ( Erica tetralix )

The genus, first described by Linné in 1753, comprises around 860 species. Together with the monotypic genera Daboecia and Calluna , it forms the tribe Ericeae in the subfamily of the Ericoideae , this classification was supported by molecular genetic studies. The internal systematics of the genre, on the other hand, has not been adequately researched and is considered open.

Here is a selection of species with details of their home areas:


  • PF Stevens et al .: Ericaceae. In: Klaus Kubitzki (Ed.): The Families and Genera of Vascular Plants - Volume VI - Flowering Plants - Dicotyledons - Celastrales, Oxalidales, Rosales, Cornales, Ericales. 2004, p. 173, ISBN 978-3-540-06512-8

Individual evidence

The information in this article is taken from the literature given under references; the following literature is also cited:

  1. Kathleen A. Kron et al .: A phylogenetic classification of Ericaceae: Molecular and morphological evidence. In: Botanical Review, 68, 2002, pp. 335-423
  2. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au Erica im Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN), USDA , ARS , National Genetic Resources Program. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved October 31, 2018.
  3. Claus-Peter Lieckfeld : " The beautiful Erika " - travel report with a view of neophytes In: DIE ZEIT No. 38 of September 15, 2005

Web links

Commons : Heather ( Erica )  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
  • Erica In: Dressler, S., Schmidt, M. & G. Zizka: African plants - A Photo Guide , Senckenberg Research Institute, Frankfurt / Main, 2014ff.