Calluna is the smallest genus within the Ericaceae plant family, as it is only made up of one species of plant. This plant is called Calluna vulgaris, or heather.
You can find it in many parts of Europe and Asia, as long as the soil is acidic. More often than not, this gorgeous plant lives happily in wide, open spaces, adding a wealth of color to fells, mountains, and wild areas.
Heather At A Glance
Heather, or Calluna vulgaris, flowers from the later days of summer well into fall, where it will provide a sea of color in pinks, whites, purples, and reds. This is its most recognizable trait.
In the past, this plant had many uses, from herbal remedies, applications in rope-making, jewelry-making, and more.
Next to the thistle, heather is one of the most recognizable emblems of Scotland, where it had countless medicinal uses in ancient times. It was used to treat stomach complaints, coughs, colds, arthritis, and gout, among others.
The plant has antiseptic, antimicrobial, and diuretic properties, so it was a cornerstone of traditional medicine.
There is some interesting folklore surrounding this plant, too. This also helps if you want to give heather as a gift to someone.
Some tell it that the white heather will only grow where blood has never been spilled. Others suggest that white heather turned white, when Malvina, a Scottish maiden betrothed to a Celtic warrior, wept at the death of her beloved Oscar.
Purple heather was delivered with the bad news, and her tears turned the flowers white. Some people believe that stumbling upon white heather in the wild is supposed to be very good luck.
Calluna Name Origin
The genus name, Calluna, is thought to come from the Greek word Kallyno, which translates to sweep clean or to make beautiful, referring to the historical usage of the plant in brooms.
The epithet vulgaris you might have come across before, as it is used in many plant names. It’s the Latin name for common.
Some believe that the common name Heather, comes from the ancient word haeddre, which was used in Scotland to describe heathland.
It’s worth knowing that the common name is interchangeable with plants from the Erica genus, which are part of the same plant family. The key to telling them apart is in the calyx, the foliage shape, and how much frost the plants can stand.
Calluna vulgaris features four parts in both its corolla and calyx, while the plants belonging to the Erica genus have five of each/
What Does Heather Symbolize?
In the language of flowers, heather symbolizes prosperity, luck, increased wealth, and independence.
Heather Growing Requirements
Heather grows as an ornamental shrub, which only reaches between 30 and 60cm tall. It’s perfect as a rockery plant, a border plant, or even to brighten up containers.
Calluna vulgaris withstands cold temperatures in zones 4 through to 6, and provides a spectacular bloom from summer through to fall.
It requires acidic soil to thrive. If your garden has soil that is anything else, you can grow heather in ericaceous compost in a pot, instead.
The plant itself is very low maintenance, needing no attention at all besides the occasional watering in hot, dry weather, and a light trim to keep the shrub looking tidy.
One thing that heather does need is full sunlight. It doesn’t matter if this is in an exposed or sheltered area, but provide it with as much sun as you can. You’ll see more flowers, and you’ll find that many more pollinators will visit your heather, too.