Phylum: Magnoliophyta - Class: Equisetopsida - Order: Ericales - Family: Ericaceae
This perannial shrub produces small pink bell-shaped drooping flowers that are borne in clusters at the ends of its shoots. The narrow grey-green leaves are borne in in whorls of four around the stems - hence the common name.
Bell Heather Erica cinerea produces darker pink bell-like flowers, but its leaves are borne in whorls of three. Common Heather Calluna vulgaris has smaller flowers and its leaves occur in pairs on opposite sides of the stems.
Cross-leaved Heath is found throughout the UK. On mainland Europe this low-growing heather occurs from Scandinavia right down to the southern coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Erica tetralix is reported to have been introduced to some parts of North America.
This short heath species blooms from June until September - even into October in some upland areas. We took most of these photographs on the flat moorland top of Llanllwni Mountain, to south-east of the Teifi Valley.
The delicate flowers of cross-leaved heath are paler than those of bell heather, but otherwise the flowers are similar in size and shape; however, whereas bell heather prefers dry soil, cross-leaved heath thrives in damp, peat-bog areas.
Above: Erica tetralix at Marfield Wetlands in Yorkshore.
A distinguishing feature of Erica tetralix is the leaf arrangement of this plant: the leaves are set in whorls of four.
We hope that you have found this information helpful. If so we are sure you would find our books Wonderful Wildflowers of Wales, vols 1 to 4, by Sue Parker and Pat O'Reilly very useful too. Buy copies here...