A frugal specialist – Heather 

Heather (Calluna vulgaris) is a very undemanding plant and is the first wood plant to colonise open sandy areas. Heather was not particularly popular with farmers in earlier centuries, as it was a pointer to poorly agriculturally usable soils that could only be cultivated with great effort. Today, however, it is considered the epitome of a romantic, beautiful and species-rich landscape.

Heather is very well adapted to life on nutrient-poor sandy soils. It grows very slowly and therefore does not need a lot of nutrients. With its deep-reaching roots, it can absorb water from deeper soil layers. The most important adaptation, however, are the tiny, scale-shaped leaves that are arranged in 4 rows on the stem. On the outside they are covered with a waxy layer, which greatly reduces water evaporation.

Heather is good pasture for bees and is highly valued by beekeepers. In the past, the branches of the plants were also used to bind brooms – hence the name broom heather, which is also used for heather herbs. It is also a popular ornamental plant that is grown in many varieties with different flowering times and colours.

Besenheide – Calluna vulgaris (Foto: C. Venne)