Epacris impressa

Epacris impressa

"Common Heath" redirects here. For the geometer moth, see Ematurga atomaria.

Epacris impressa, also known as Common Heath, is a shrub that is native to the south-east of Australia. The pink-flowered form, often referred to as Pink Heath, is the floral emblem of the state of Victoria.

Description

The plants have an erect habit and can grow to 2 to 3 metres high, although plants in the range of 0.5 to 1 metre tall are more commonly observed. The branches are stiff and have small leaves with prickly, pointed apices that are 8 to 16mm long. The flowers, which mainly occur between late autumn and early spring are white, pink or red in colour and appears in dense clusters along the stems. They are about 2 cm long and are narrow and tubular with five indentations on the base.

Distribution

Epacris impressa is commonly found in coastal regions and nearby foothills in a region extending from the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia across southern Victoria and northwards to southern New South Wales as far as the Clyde River. It is also found in the Grampians and the Little Desert in Victoria and is widespread in Tasmania.

Symbolism

At a meeting of representatives of government and other bodies in 1951, the pink form of the Common Heath, the "Pink Heath", was adopted as the official floral emblem for the state of Victoria in 1958. Victoria was the first Australian state to adopt a floral emblem.

An Australian stamp issue of state floral emblems was issued in 1968, including the Pink Heath which was featured on the 13c stamp. The Pink Heath was also depicted on the vicroads registration label for a number of years up to 2006. In 1973, a depiction of Pink Heath was added to the armorial ensign for Victoria.

Interaction with honeyeaters

Honeyeaters, such as the Eastern Spinebill, are attracted to the flowers in their native habitat. As the bird gathers the nectar, the pollen, which has fins, attaches itself to the feather on the heads of the birds and is thus carried to other flowers, aiding cross pollination.

Taxonomy

The type specimen of Common Heath was collected in 1793 by French botanist Jacques Labillardière in Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania) during a voyage with Bruni D'Entrecasteaux It was described by Labillardiere in 1805 who gave the species its current name, the specific Latin epithet "impressa" (meaning "impressed" or "indented") alluding to the indentations on the floral tube.

The original mounted specimen is currently held at the National Herbarium of Victoria at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne.

Forms and cultivars

Common Heath has a large variety of forms and colours, some of which have been selected and grown for cultivation:Epacris impressa var. grandiflora (Grampians Heath) This is a variety from the Grampians which was described by George Bentham in 1868. The main distinguishing feature of this variety are that the leaves are longer than the flowers. Taxonomically, the name is currently regarded as a synonym of Epacris impressa rather than being classified as a distinct variety, however a number of named forms are commonly cultivated:

  • Epacris impressa 'Grandiflora' – leaves and flowers larger than most other forms, single flowers.
  • Epacris impressa 'Double Pink' – double flowers
  • Epacris impressa 'Grampians' – pale pink flowersEpacris impressa 'Bega'

This is a form from Bega in New South Wales that has bright red flowers. It is regarded as one of the more reliable forms in cultivation.Epacris impressa 'Cranbourne Bells' This is a form from Cranbourne in Victoria that occurs naturally near the Botanic Gardens. It is double-flowered with pink flowers buds fading to white as they open.

Cultivation

Common Heath was first recorded in cultivation in England in 1825 but due to its frost-tenderness, it was mostly restricted to greenhouse cultivation.

Plants grow best in a moist but well drained, acidic soil. They can be short-lived and are difficult to transplant. Progation is by seed or cuttings.

See also

References

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