Erica lusitanica


Erica: From the Greek ereika 'heath' or 'heather'

Common Name(s)

Spanish heath



Flora Category

Vascular - Exotic

NVS Species Code


The National Vegetation Survey (NVS) Databank is a physical archive and electronic databank containing records of over 94,000 vegetation survey plots - including data from over 19,000 permanent plots. NVS maintains a standard set of species code abbreviations that correspond to standard scientific plant names from the Ngä Tipu o Aotearoa - New Zealand Plants database.

Structural Class

Dicotyledonous Trees & Shrubs


Terrestrial. A plant of coastal, lowland and montane habitats (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Plant grows in sites with low - moderate fertility (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). The plant occurs in areas with moderate to high rainfall and also where the soil is acidic (Wilson & Galloway 1993). The plant is found in scrub and forest margin, shrubland, tussockland, herbfield and fernland (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). The plant occurs in rough pasture, shrubland and scrub (Wilson & Galloway 1993).


Erect shrub to about 2m high, occasionally with a trunk > 15cm diam. Shoots densely covered with short hairs, especially when young; hairs simple, of varying lengths. Leaves in whorls of 3~4, subsessile, 3~7mm long; margins revolute and contiguous, entirely concealing undersurface; apparent or false margin sometimes with sparse hairs giving a serrulate appearance, otherwise glabrous. Flowers in lateral racemes; racemes usually densely arranged so appearing as a large terminal panicle. Pedicels about 2mm long, recurved. Bracteoles situated near base, < 1mm long, generally linear, whitish, not reaching calyx. Calyx 1~1.5mm long; lobes triangular-ovate, glabrous, white, 2~3x length of tube. Corolla 3~5mm long, tubular-campanulate, white except for rose or pink flush outside in bud, glabrous; lobes very short, very broadly ovate, erect to spreading. Stamens included; anthers approx. 1mm long, dark maroon; awns whitish, echinate, 1/2 ~ 2/3 length of anther. Style slightly exserted; stigma obconic. Capsule about 3mm long, broad ellipsoid, glabrous. (- Webb et. al., 1988)

Similar Taxa

Erica lusitanica is most likely to be confused with E. arborea. E. lusitanica is an erect pale green shrub that grows up to 2m tall (Wilson & Galloway 1993); E. arborea is a shrub or small tree up to 5m tall. The young shoots of E. lusitanica are densely clad in simple hairs; those of E. arborea are echinate. The leaves of both species are narrow and less than 1cm long and are in close whorls of 3-4 (Wilson & Galloway 1993, Webb et al. 1988). The flowers are narrowly tubular (3-5mm long), pointing downwards from a tiny stalk. On E. lusitanica they are white, flushed with pink when in bud (Wilson & Galloway 1993); on E. arborea they are white (Webb et al. 1988). Stigmas of E. lusitanica flowers are pink to crimson, whereas they are white to pale green in the flowers of E. arborea (Webb at al. 1988). The seed capsule is approximately 3mm long, brown, with numerous minute seeds (Wilson & Galloway 1993).


March, April, May June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Flower Colours

Red / Pink,White


Germinable seed present in capsules in early spring (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995).

Year Naturalised



SW Europe

Reason For Introduction

Life Cycle Comments
Perennial. Seed requires vernalization and germination is greatest in the dark at low temperatures and greatest in fluctuating temperature when exposed to light (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). The plant has a life span of 40-50 years maximum (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995).

Seed, no vegetative reproduction (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995).

Seed is produced at the rate of 60 - 100/capsule, millions of capsules per bush (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Seed viability declines slowly with time, ensuring vast seed banks (480 000 seed/m squared) (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Seed remains viable in soil for at least two years (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995); viable seeds after 4 years, longevity may be longer (Buxton, 1990).

Seed is dispersed by gravity, wind, water, humans and vertebrates (wool, feet) (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995).

The plant is slightly intolerant to drought, shade and frost and tolerant to poor drainage (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Physical damage results in resprouting from the damaged base, but it does not layer (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Seedlings are killed when grazed, but once taller than 5cm side shoots mean the plant is resistant to browsing (Timmins & MacKenzie 1995). Seedlings are shade tolerant (Buxton, 1990). Fire creates conditions suitable for germination and seedling establishment (Buxton, 1990). Requires low to medium soil fertility (Atkinson 1997).

References and further reading

Webb C.J., Sykes W.R., Garnock-Jones P.J. 1988. Flora of New Zealand Volume IV. Botany Division, D.S.I.R., Christchurch. 1365 p.

Wilson H.D., Galloway T. 1993. Small-leaved Shrubs of New Zealand. Manuka Press, Christchurch. 305 p.

This page last updated on 28 Jul 2013