What is heather?

​(Calluna vulgaris)Heather, photo: Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy
  • Heather is an evergreen shrub native to Europe and northern Africa. It is listed on the national Alert List for Environmental Weeds.
  • Heather is a declared weed in Tasmania under the Tasmanian Weed Management Act 1999. The importation, sale and distribution of heather are prohibited in Tasmania.

How to identify heather

  • Heather is an evergreen perennial (long-lived) shrub with woody stems. Heather grows to 0.5 - 1.25 m tall, and varies from a low-lying mat-like form to upright ball-shaped bushes and dwarf trees.
  • Young growth is initially densely hairy but the plant becomes hairless later. The stems have dark orange to red bark. Small, stalkless leaves grow in four vertical rows along the branches. The leaves are initially dark green and later turn brown.
  • Heather has bell-shaped flowers, generally pale purple although pink and white-flowered plants also occur. Heather flowers have petals which are separate for most of their length, whereas other similar plants (Erica species) have a tubular or urn-like flower of fused petals. Heather seeds are tiny and contained in small, hairy, round capsules.
Heather, photo: Lois M. Landry Heather, photo: Dr Amadej Trnkoczy
Image above top: Heather, photo: Dr Amadej Trnkoczy
Images above, left to right: Heather, photo: Lois M. Landry; Heather flowers close-up, photo - Dr Amadej Trnkoczy

Heather in Tasmania

  • ​Heather has been recorded in central Tasmania around Lake Augusta, at Meander in the north, and on Bruny Island and around Kingston in the south (see map). Heather has potential to grow in a range of Tasmanian environments from sea level to upland areas.
  • Mature infestations of heather form a dense canopy and persistent leaf litter which can reduce species diversity in native vegetation. Heather has the potential to invade a range of vegetation types including native heaths, grasslands and open forests. Heather also can increase fuel loads and fire risk.

What is the legal status of heather in your area?

Detailed management and control guidelines for heather can be found in the Heather Control Guide. Refer also to Herbicides for Heather Control. For further information see DPIPWE's Weed Links and Resources.

See also
Heather Control Guide
Herbicides for Heather Control
Statutory Management Plan for Heather
Weed Links and Resources

Other useful links
Pest Genie
Weeds in Australia - Weed Management Guide

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