Saturday, 25 September 2010


Heathers are amongst the most iconic plants of Scotland. They flower almost throughout the summer, though the most spectacular shows here on West Ardnamurchan tend to come in late August and September. Heather tolerates the acid soils of the highlands, and copes well with light grazing, so survives the attention of sheep. It will also regenerate after being burnt, the new shoots being food for grouse.

The most widespread heather variety is ling, Calluna vulgaris. It tends towards mauve and lilac in colour, has small flowers along the stems, and is the heather of Scottish poetry and song. There are hillsides on West Ardnamurchan which are completely covered with this plant, giving magnificent displays when in full flower.

Bell heather, Erica cinerea, is less common but has richer shades in its flowers, from deep purple.... pale pink. It is found growing in amongst ling.

While heather moorland has being lost under bracken and coniferous planting, there are places where it will survive where bracken and trees cannot grow. It's not uncommon to find heather plants clinging to apparently bare rock faces or, as here, growing happily on otherwise barren scree slopes.

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