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Heather Calluna vulgaris

Commonly known as heather or ling, Calluna vulgaris is the sole species in the genus Calluna in the family Ericaceae. The generic name Calluna is from the Greek kallunein meaning "to beautify, sweep clean" in reference to its traditional use in besoms (brooms). The specific epithet vulgaris is Latin for 'common'.

Heather is an important food source for various sheep and deer which can graze the tips of the plants when snow covers low-growing vegetation. Willow Grouse and Red Grouse feed on the young shoots and seeds of this plant. Both adult and larva of the Heather Beetle Lochmaea suturalis feed on it, and the larvae of a number of Lepidoptera species also feed on the plant, notably the small emperor moth Saturnia pavonia.

Heather honey is a highly valued product in moorland and heathland areas, with many beehives being moved there in late summer. Heather honey has a characteristic strong taste, and an unusual jelly like texture until it is stirred, when it becomes a syrup like other honey, but then sets again to a jelly. This makes the extraction of the honey from the comb difficult, and it is therefore often sold as comb honey.

Calluna vulgaris is the County Flower of Staffordshire.

You can adopt a seed from this species for £250. Your donation will be used towards the work of the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, ensuring this species is kept safe in the vaults forever, and to collect more species in the future.

In addition to receiving your adoption pack featuring your certificate and photograph of the species (this will be posted to you, or the recipient), you will be invited to the County Flower sponsor's event at the Millennium Seed Bank, Wakehurst where you can meet the staff and see the vaults where your species is stored.

If you have any questions, please contact Jill Taylor on 020 8332 3248 or j.taylor@kew.org.

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