Information on Heather

Common Name: Heather
Scientific Name: Calluna vulgaris
Irish Name: Fraoch mór
Family Group: Ericaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

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

Also known as Ling, this well-known plant grows abundantly on acid soil over mountains, moors and bogs throughout Ireland.  Its blossoms paint the landscape with a pale purple from July to October, its tiny 5mm long bell-shaped flowers growing in abundant spikes and its dark-green, scale-like leaves in pairs along the slender stems.  This is a native plant belonging to the family Ericaceae 

I first identified this plant near Derrynane, Co Kerry in 1977 and photographed it on the Wicklow Gap, Co Wicklow in 2004.

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

Heather is well-known in our folklore and the following comes from Co Tipperary: 

'Little Heather.  Fraoichin.  Freeheen.  This used to be the name the townspeople in Tipperary, Cashel and other towns used call the people from our local bogs who used sell loads of turf in the towns.  The tops of the loads were bound with heather hence the name 'The Freeheens from the bog of Ballymore'.'  

From the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin. NFC 266:60/61.

Occasionally Heather can be found with white flowers and should you find white heather you are said to be in for some good luck.  The origins of this are said come from Scotland where the purple variety was stained by the blood of the Picts, the white variety being left unstained and therefore lucky.  Heather is the national flower of Norway. 

'How oft, though moss and grass are seen,
Tann'd bright for want of flowers,
Still keeps the Ling its darksome green,
Thickset with little flowers.'

(John Clare, quoted by Ann Pratt, 'Wild Flowers' (1857)