Culluna vulgaris or Erica vulgaris
Evergreen shrub
In leaf Jan.-Dec. Flowering time July-Oct. Seed ripens Oct.-Nov.

Common Names / Habitat / Magickal Uses / Edible Uses / Medicinal Uses / Other Uses / Cultivation / Propagation


Common Names: Brecina, Funda, Ling, Heath

Habitat: Acid soils in open woodlands, moors, and marshy grounds.

Magickal Uses: Feminine. Venus. Water. Deity: Isis, Osiris, Venus

Protection, Rain Making, Luck. Robert Graves said heather is "a suitable tree for the inititation of Scottish witches." Brings one in touch with divinity and increases physical beauty. Wearing an amulet of the wood will bring a long physical life and put one in touch with the truly immortal soul. A valuable herb for those who pursue initiatory paths. Unfolds the inner self. Carried, it will guard against rape or other violent crimes or just to bring good luck. (White heather is best here.) When burned with fern will attract rain.

Edible Uses: Condiment; Tea.

A tea is made from the flowering stems. A kind of mead was once brewed from the flowers and the young shoots have been used instead of hops to flavor beer.

Medicinal Uses: Antiseptic; Bach; Cholagogue; Depurative; Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Expectorant; Sedative; Vasoconstrictor.

Heather has a long history of medicinal use. In particular it is a good urinary antiseptic and diuretic, disinfecting the urinary tract and mildy increasing urine production. The flowering shoots are antiseptic, astringent, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, mildly sedative and vasoconstrictor. The plant is often macerated and made into a liniment for treating rheumatism and arthritis, whilst a hot poultice is a traditional remedy for chillblains. An infusion of the flowering shoots is used in the treatment of coughs, colds, bladder and kidney disorders, cystitis etc. A cleansing and detoxifying plant, it has been used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and gout. The flowering stems are harvested in the autumn and dried for later use.

Other Uses: The branches have many uses, including in thatching, as a bedding or a stuffing for mattresses, for insulation, basketry, rope making and for making brooms. The dried branches are a good fuel. The rootstock can be made into musical pipes. A yellow dye is obtained from the plant. The bark is a source of tannin. Heather can be grown as a low hedge and is quite useful as an edging to beds. It is fairly amenable to trimming. A useful ground cover plant for covering dry banks.

Cultivation: Requires a light acid soil and a sunny position. Prefers a sunny position but tolerates light shade. Only succeeds if the pH is below 6.5. Prefers a poor peaty soil. Plants are tolerant of fairly dry soils but they dislike prolonged drought. They tolerate wet conditions in the winter. Plants regenerate well from the base after a fire if the heat was not too great, if the fire was slow and intense then new seedlings will quickly become established. Commonly grown in the ornamental garden, there are many named varieties. The flowers are rich in nectar and are very attractive to bees, butterflies and moths. This plant is also an important food source for the caterpillars.

Propagation: Seed - sow as soon as it is ripe or in February in a shaded part of the greenhouse. Surface sow or only just cover the seed. Cold stratification for 4 - 20 weeks aids germination. The seed usually germinates in 1 - 2 months at 20 degrees. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter, planting them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts.

Cuttings of half-ripe wood 4 - 5cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, 5 - 7cm with a heel, October/November in a frame. Good percentage. Layering in autumn. Division in spring. Dig up the plant 12 months prior to division and replant it 15 - 30cm deeper in the soil in order to encourage rooting along the stems. When ready to take the divisions, it is just a matter of digging up the plant and cutting off sections of stem with roots on them. These are best potted up and kept in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are well rooted before planting them out in the summer or following spring.

Back to Witches Garden