Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ericaceae: The Heath Family

Erica australis February 2009

Erica manipuliflora September 2009

Ericaceae is an important family of plants for Seattle gardens. Northwest natives, as well as favorites from Europe & Asia are among the ericaceous shrubs. The family was named for the genus Erica (Heath). Most members of the family have clusters of urn-shaped flowers, although some like Rhododendron have bell-shaped flowers, as though the urn had split into lobes. As a family many share a distinctive rounded form & branching pattern. They are mostly evergreen with leathery leaves. There is a great wealth of different & pleasing shrubs among Rhododendron species. The same is true of Arctostaphylos (Manzanita). These 2 thrive in very different environments. The center of Rhododendron diversity is in the moist & forested Himalayas. Manzanitas are centered in the dry chaparral of southwestern North America. Useful Northwest native plants in this family include Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy Manzanita), Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick), Arbutus menziesii (Madrona) & Gaultheria shallon (Salal).

Arbutus unedo (Strawberry Tree)

Arctostaphylos columbiana (Hairy Manzanita)
Calluna vulgaris (Heather)
Daboecia cantabrica (Irish Heath)
Erica arborea (Tree Heath)
Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)
Menziesia ferruginea (Fool’s Huckleberry)
Pieris japonica (Lily of the Valley Shrub)

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Kinnikinnick)
Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen)

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