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Erica ciliaris L.

Dorset Heath

Modern name

Erica ciliaris L.

A straggling shrub 6 to 12 in. high, with long prostrate stems from which the flowering branches spring erect in dense masses; young stems thickly covered with hairs. Leaves in whorls of threes, ovate, about 18 in. long, green above, whitish beneath, glabrous on both surfaces, but the edges furnished with long gland-tipped hairs; stalk scarcely perceptible. Flowers arranged in whorls of threes on erect terminal racemes, 2 to 5 in. long, and opening from late June to October. Corolla rosy red, pitcher-shaped, 38 in. long, suddenly and obliquely contracted towards the mouth, where are four rounded, shallow teeth. Sepals very similar to the smallest leaves, but more densely hairy on the margin; flower-stalk 110 in. long; seed-vessel quite glabrous.

Native of S.W. Europe, also of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and W. Ireland. Among hardy heaths it is only likely to be confused with E. tetralix, but that species has its leaves in fours, and its flowers are arranged in short terminal umbels – not on an elongated axis as in E. ciliaris. The latter is charming for planting in broad masses for late summer and autumnal flowering.

cv. ‘Maweana’. – A very distinct and superior form of E. ciliaris found in 1872 in Portugal by George Maw. It differs from the ordinary ciliaris in its stiffer, sturdier habit, and is less inclined to develop long trailing branches. The flower is larger, being 12 in. long, and the foliage stouter and darker green. It flowers from July to November, and is a most attractive plant. The cultivar name ‘Maweana’ belongs only to the original clone, figured in Bot. Mag., t. 8443 (E.c. var. maweana (Backhouse) Bean; E. maweana Backhouse).

Another clone of wild origin, discovered in Dorset, is ‘Stoborough’, tall-growing, with large white flowers. Others (among many now in commerce) are: ‘Mrs C.H.Gill’, of compact growth, with clear red flowers and dark green foliage; and ‘Globosa’, with grey-green foliage and pink flowers. The flowering time of all these is July to October.

E. × watsonii (Benth.) Bean – This is the collective name for hybrids between E. ciliaris and E. tetralix, which occur quite commonly in the wild and are rather variable. The type was found by H. C. Watson on a heath near Truro and described by Bentham in 1839 as E. ciliaris var. watsonii. Its flowers are arranged much after the fashion of E. ciliaris, and they have the obliquely pitcher-shaped form of that species, but the raceme is not so elongated. The leaves are mostly in whorls of four, as in E. tetralix, and have the narrower shape of that species. The original clone has been named ‘Truro’.

Other cultivars that belong to this group include ‘G

E. mackaiana, once thought to be a hybrid of E. ciliaris and tetralix, is now accepted as a species (q.v.).

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

The most notable new cultivar of this species is ‘David McClintock’, with greyish foliage and white or light pink flowers, tipped with mauvish pink. It is inclined to revert. The original plant was found growing wild in Brittany.



Other species in the genus