There are roughly 857 species of flowering plants in the family Erica genus, with around 690 of them being endemic to South Africa. The remaining species are native to other parts of Africa, Madagascar, the Mediterranean, and Europe. Most of them are small shrubs, but some can be much larger. They are all evergreen with minute needle-like leaves. The common names – heath and heather – are shared by the genus Calluna, which used to be part of the same genus. Now they have been split with Calluna having even smaller leaves and flowers that consist of separate petals. Erica is sometimes referred to as winter (or spring) heather to distinguish it from Calluna that is referred to as summer (or autumn) heather.
Ericas are dependent upon a symbiotic association with micorrhizal fungi to survive hot dry summers. The fungus enters the roots of the plant and sends out a network of hyphae strands that increase the water-absorbing capacity of the plant even during dry periods.
Books to Consider
Name Derivation: From the Latin for Heath
Common Name: Heath or Heather
Erica is in the family Ericaceae.