10 things you should know about Surrey heather

Calluna (heather) in bloom in Surrey. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Calluna (heather) in bloom in Surrey. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The plant’s delicate pink flowers dominate much of the county’s countryside from late summer to autumn

· Heather, also known as ling, is usually still flowering on Surrey heathland in October.

· Its delicate pink flowers contrast with the sprawling bushes of coarse, woody stems.

· Heather plants grow tightly packed together and can live for more than 40 years.

· Heather has been used for fuel, fodder, building materials, thatch, packing and ropes.

· It was also used to make brooms, which is how it got its genus name Calluna, which is derived from the Greek word kalluno, meaning to cleanse or adorn.

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· Heather is especially popular in Scotland – its name may come from the Scottish word haeddre, which describes heathland or shrubland.

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· In folklore heather flowers mean good luck, admiration, and protection.

· Queen Victoria popularised this meaning in England because of her appreciation for Scottish traditions.

· Heather leaves and flowers have been used to make medicinal tea, particularly for gastrointestinal problems.

· Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem ‘Heather Ale’ tells of a defeated Pictish king, who is thrown off the cliff rather than give up the recipe for the mysterious beer.

- You can support Surrey Wildlife Trust by becoming a member. Visit surreywildlifetrust.org, e-mail membership@surreywt.org.uk or call 01483 795445 for an application form.

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