Spanish Heath - Erica australis
by Tony Hall
An evergreen woody shrub with sub-erect stems and branches, to around 2m tall, with small needle-like linear leaves to 6mm long that have rolled under margins, which completely cover the lower leaf surface.The leaves are in whorls of usually 4s. The long, tubular-bell-shaped flowers, 8-10mm in length that have reflexed petal lobes and a protruding style, and are borne in lax terminal clusters of 4-8 individuals, at the shoot tips. These are rose-purple to pink in colour.
This plant can form quite large thickets in the open areas of both cork oak woodland and pine forests. It is a very attractive plant and has a long flowering period, from December to April or May and June in higher altitudes.
Erica australis is in the Ericaceae family, along with other heathers and rhododendrons. These are all plants that prefer soils with a low pH, i.e. acid soils.
Tony Hall, Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, specialising in the plants of Andalucía.