Portuguese Heath

(Also known as Spanish Heath, Portuguese Heath)

Erica lusitanica

Family: Ericaceae

Type of weed:

Flowering Months: , , ,

Description

Spanish Heath is a dense, multi stemmed, fast growing evergreen shrub to 3 m tall. Stems are upright or arching. Young stems are hairy. The plant tolerates poor soil.

Leaves are 4–7 mm long, tightly rolled, finely pointed, linear and crowded.

Flowers are bell shaped, 4–7 mm long, white (but usually pink when in bud) in clusters towards the end of branches. It flowers profusely winter to early spring, often obscuring foliage.

Fruit capsules contain many very fine seeds and mature over spring.

Don’t confuse with…

Spanish Heath can be confused with native heath plants (Epacris species). Native heath plants also have small leaves and bell-shaped flowers. Native heath plant flowers have 5 petals; Portuguese Heath has 4 petals.

Portuguese Heath can be confused with Leucopogon, as well as some Kunzel and Leptospermum species.

Dispersal

Seed is dispersed by water, wind, vehicles, in soil and in dumped garden waste. Each plant produces numerous seeds that germinate easily and rapidly. Portugese Heath also suckers, layers and coppices.

Impact on bushland

Portugese Heath can create monocultures. The fine dense roots form a mat which suppresses the growth of other plants. Fire and soil disturbance promote the germination of seedlings.

Distribution

, . Hazelbrook to Mt Victoria.

Alternative planting

Native plants

  • Coral Heath (Epacris microphylla)
  • Swamp Heath (Epacris paludosa)
  • Epacris pulchella
  • Pink Kunzea, Pink Buttons (Kunzea capitata)
  • Tick Bush (Kunzea ambigua)
  • Logania albiflora
  • Woolly Tea Tree (Leptospermum grandifolium)
  • Leocopogon fletcher

Council provides a tool, on its Mountain Landscapes website, to help you choose native alternative plantings. Choose your village, soil, vegetation community and the purpose of your planting, and the tool will give you suggestions.

There are native nurseries in several Blue Mountains villages, including Glenbrook, Lawson and Katoomba. Please also ask at your favourite local nursery.

Control

Seedlings can be hand pulled ensuring all the roots are removed. Use a trowel to loosen the soil first and take care as stems and roots are brittle.

Established plants can be cut and painted or stem injected.

Seeds are dispersed by birds, so it is best to treat plants before they fruit. Dispose of flowers and seeds. Cut parts of the plant can be spread out to dry off the ground. Once material is dead it will decompose in place.

For more info

For key points on these techniques: