Calluna vulgaris (also known as Ling or Common Heather) is the most common and widespread of our native heathers. It is a low perennial shrub normally growing from 20 to 50cm tall but occasionally reaching as high as 1m. In Ling the leaves are arranged in opposite pairs. The flowers are a delicate pink (or occasionally white) and made up of four sepals and four smaller petals that appear form August until late October. This is in contrast to the other common heather, Erica cinereal (Bell Heather) which has leaves in whorls and bright purple, bell shaped flowers that bloom in earlier in the year.
Ling is a long-lived native perennial that grows on a wide range of acidic soils. Although most dominant in open, sunny moors and heaths it can be found amongst boggy vegetation and within acidic pine and oak woodlands. It is reasonably tolerant of grazing by sheep, cattle and deer and will regenerate following occasional light burning.
Heather will readily colonise bare ground both from wind dispersed seed or from the persistent seed bank it can form. Germination is reputed to be difficult with smoke sometimes being used to break dormancy. In our tests this is not necessary and although germination may be a little slow and erratic 1g of seed has the potential to produce many hundreds of plants.