Information on Prickly Heath

Common Name: Prickly Heath
Scientific Name: Gaultheria mucronata
Irish Name: Fraoch deilgneach
Family Group: Ericaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Prickly Heath is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.


This pretty little shrub came to Ireland from southern Chile and Argentina and is now considered to be one of our invasive alien species. In its homeland it is one of the dominant plants which grow above the tree line. It is a bushy, evergreen plant which can grow to 120 cm high. Spreading by underground runners, it has small, alternate, ovate, dark green leaves which are sharply pointed – hence the common name ‘Prickly Heath’. In May and June it bears clusters of pearly-white, urn-shaped flowers (5 – 6 mm), the corollas being constricted at their mouths; the sepals are also white. The fruit is a purple or pink berry. Prickly Heath belongs to the Ericaceae family.

I recorded and photographed this species in 2010 in the beautiful Glenveagh National Park, County Donegal.

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Heath, Prickly
Heath, Prickly

Formerly known as Pernettya mucronata, this plant was so named in 1825 after Dom Antoine Pernetty, French Benedictine monk, botanist and writer. However in 1990 the Pernettya genus was merged with the genus Gaultheria. Gaultier was a Canadian physician and, in 1735, Linnaeus had created the genus Gaultheria in his honour.