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Heather, a plant known above all for its flower which, although small, has an indescribable effect and charm. The name of this plant derives from an ancient Greek word, ἐρείκη eréikē, one of the favorites of Aeschylus and Theocritus, a word that also refers to Northern Europe, to the ancient Irish froech, the Latvian virši and the Lithuanian virži.
In Italy it remains known by its name and we find it in gardens, as an ornamental plant, or undergrowth or near wetlands for its "private" initiative but very pleasing to the eye.
Erica: perennial plant
The family of this perennial plant is that of Ericaceae, there are about 700 different species, most, over 660, appear to be native to South Africa. In particular, they are born in the fynbos, a typical land of Cape Region. The remaining species are still partly African or endemic to Europe but always remaining in the Mediterranean area.
Beyond the geographical origin, which also determines some morphological characteristics, all the species are evergreen, perennial and shrubby type. The dimensions can vary, even up to heights that touch 1.80 cm, as much as a tall person! That is theErica arborea, and it is an exception, it can be said, because most of its sisters are "ground cover" plants.
From the definition we can guess that they do not exceed 25-35 cm, approximately. At any altitude they develop, the leaves of Heather they look like needles: they are thin and sharp, even a little fleshy. Sprout from thin, semi-woody twigs, not too "tangled".
Then there is an intruder, Calluna, who was actually part of the genre but has been separated. It's called brugo (Calluna vulgaris), but it is known as false heather, or wild heather and can be distinguished by sharpening the eyes and noting that it has smaller leaves, about a couple of mm, and corolla and calyx divided into four parts. Those of our true Heather they are divided into 5.
Erica: the flower
When we think ofHeather, at least for me it is so, let's think about the flower. To the purple one, with a slightly wild air, in less frequented areas. In truth, the flower of this plant can also be of white, pink and red color, it comes out in autumn or spring and literally covers the plants by carpeting expanses of soil with a dense bloom full of character.
They are tiny but impressive flowers, most species have them bell-shaped, with an almost cylindrical corolla. The largest flower, let alone that is a couple of cm and to show off is theMammy heather.
Erica: properties of the plant
The properties mentioned for a plant such as theHeather which is not among the most used for medicinal purposes. The area in which it could act is that of treatment of inflammation of the urinary tract, cystitis, urethritis and uratic lithiasis.
The fact is that as a plant it contains small quantities of hydroquinone glycosides, quantities which are insufficient to obtain a true disinfectant effect for the urinary tract. From this point of view, other medicinal plants are preferred, for example the strawberry tree and bearberry.
The presence of tannins means that we are talking about astringent properties, this plant can therefore be useful in case of diarrhea. If it is used externally,Heather manages to attenuate skin inflammations, through compresses, or acts on the oral mucosa with rinses. It is not a toxic plant but it is important to respect indications and contraindications. Who suffers from liver failure or hypersensitivity to its components, it is better to avoid this plant and in any case if you take too high doses, you risk irritating the intestine.
It is not a healing property but it remains interesting that the wood of Erica arborea, called briar, is used to produce pipes. In fact it is very hard and, who knows it will confirm it, has a very pleasant natural color.
Erica: care and cultivation
It also grows autonomously and is therefore a plant that gets along even on its own, but those who want to cultivate it for example for ornamental purposes can do it, without much effort. It should not be placed in areas with direct light and the recommended soil varies from species to species.
The most common are: E. carnea, E. arborea, E. scoparia, E. mammosa, E. gracilis. And the false Calluna. Without going crazy but it needs regular irrigation so that stagnation is never created, fertilization must take place every 15 days, in spring. In general it is a plant that does not like the heat, at 4 degrees Centigrade it is fine.
If not very useful for direct medical purposes, theHeather it does a lot of good for the eyes and mood, I find it very relaxing when it blooms. These images prove me right.
Erica: where to buy the seedlings
For less than 5 euros online you can easily find maps of Erica Darleyensis better known as E. Rosa. This species produces a small shrub with classic needle-like, slightly fleshy leaves. Between autumn and spring, it gives us minute and bell-shaped pink flowers. If we keep it at home it is necessary that we provide it with sufficient humidity and continuously, wetting it every day.
You can start with the seedling but also with the seed. It takes more time but there will be satisfactions. The price is similar, we are always around 5 euros, for a promising pack of seeds. These are from Erica Spiculifolia.
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