Cornish heath Erica vagans

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See August, September
Colour Purple
Habitat Heathland

The blooms of this shrub have a distinctive lilac colour which add a unique Cornish ingredient to the beauty of the Lizard moors in late summer. Its reddish-brown seed heads hang on through the winter adding a decorative touch to the landscape. It is thought to be the most resistant to drought of all the heath species.

Distribution

The Lizard peninsula of Cornwall is the only part of Britain in which this shrub is found, hence its common English name. This makes the Latin specific epithet vagans (literally meaning "wandering" but in this context meaning "widely distributed") particularly ironic.

Habitat

Heath land, in particular the moors of the the Lizard peninsula. The curious geology of this area creates the kind of alkaline soil that Cornish heath prefers. It is more or less confined to these magnesium-rich serpentine rocks.

Best time to see

Cornish heath typically blooms in August and September, presenting pretty, bell-shaped blooms.

Did you know?

It is the County Flower of Cornwall. This may be partly because according to one story, when Joseph Arimathea first arrived in Cornwall looking for tin he had nowhere to stay, so he spent his first night on a bed of Cornish heather. In gratitude he blessed the plant and so it is a blessed plant in Cornwall ever since.

It grows in at least six colour variants ranging from white to pink, mauve, deep rose, cerise and purple. Two white-flowered varieties and a gold-leaved cultivar have gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.