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Erica vagans L.

Cornish Heath

Modern name

Erica vagans L.

A low, spreading shrub from 1 to 212 ft high, becoming ultimately 5 ft or more wide, and rather sprawling; branchlets glabrous. Leaves arranged four or five in a whorl; the whorls 16 in. or less apart on the stems; linear, 18 to 12 in. long, channelled beneath, dark green and glabrous. Flowers produced usually in pairs from the leaf-axils, each on a glabrous stalk 13 in. long, the whole forming an erect, leafy, cylindrical raceme 4 to 7 in. long, the flowers opening from below upwards from July to October. Corolla almost globular, about 18 in. long, pinkish purple, the four lobes but little recurved; sepals ovate; anther-cells free from one another to the base, pink, rarely yellow.

Native of Cornwall and S.W. Europe. A showy and very attractive shrub in late summer and autumn, useful for planting on sunny slopes, and in broad masses. It is easily raised from cuttings, and thrives well in almost any soil not heavy or limy. Like the other late-flowering heaths it should be cut over occasionally in spring before growth recommences, removing all that part of the shoot that has borne flowers. This keeps the plants neater and causes them to flower more profusely, but done too often reduces the size of raceme.

cv. ‘Grandiflora’. – Of tall, loose-growing habit, with long tapering spikes of pink flowers.

cv. ‘Holden Pink’. – Flowers pale pinkish white, flushed with mallow-purple.

cv. ‘Lyonesse’. – Flowers white, with distinctive brown anthers. It is superior to the older ‘Alba’ in purity of shade.

cv. ‘Mrs D. F. Maxwell’. – Flowers warm rosy pink with no trace of purple.

cv. ‘St Keverne’. – This form of the Cornish heath differs from the type in the corolla being more broadly bell-shaped, in its lobes being more recurved, and in its colour being pure rosy pink with no suggestion of purple in it. The other parts of the plant do not seem to differ. It was originally discovered on some moorland on Trelanvean farm, St Keverne, Cornwall, by P. D. Williams, who struck cuttings of it and established it in his garden at Lanarth. It was fortunate that he did so as the original plant was trodden out of existence by cattle the year following its discovery. It is now well established in gardens, where its clear rosy-pink flowers cause it to be preferred to the type with purplish ones.

From the Supplement (Vol. V)

† cv. ‘Valerie Proudley’. – Foliage yellow in summer, becoming pale yellow or silvery yellow in winter. Flowers white, not freely borne in some gardens. Put into commerce in 1968.



Other species in the genus