Honeysuckle heath (Erica abietina)

Erica abietina ssp. constantiana in flower
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Honeysuckle heath fact file

Honeysuckle heath description

GenusErica (1)

This attractive South African shrub belongs to the Ericaceae, or heath family, and is therefore related to heather, blueberries and cranberries (1). The leaves of the honeysuckle heath are short, or long and needle-like, and in appearance resemble those of a fir tree. The relatively large flowers, 10 to 28 millimetres long, are tubular and sometimes a little flared at the tips with the anthers protruding. They grow in clusters near the ends of the branch tips and may be stunning hues of magenta, orange-red or yellow (2).

Also known as
red heath.
Height: up to 1.5 m (2)

Honeysuckle heath biology

The honeysuckle heath flowers from January until April or September (2) (4). Although there is little information on the biology of this plant, the red, trumpet-shaped flowers of the honeysuckle heath indicate that it is most likely pollinated by birds. Red is a particularly effective colour for advertising nectar to birds and the tubular flowers are suitably shaped for the insertion of a bird’s bill (5).


Honeysuckle heath range

Endemic to the Western Cape Province, South Africa (4)


Honeysuckle heath habitat

The honeysuckle heath grows on rocky sandstone slopes (2)


Honeysuckle heath status

Subspecies Erica abietina diabolis and Erica abietina perfoliosa are classified as Critically Endangered (CR), Erica abietina petraeae is classified as Vulnerable (VU), and Erica abietina abietina is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa (3).


Honeysuckle heath threats

While subspecies of the honeysuckle heath are classified as Critically Endangered and Vulnerable (3), there is no information available at present detailing the specific threats that these populations face. However, the honeysuckle heath occurs primarily within the Cape Floristic Region, an area in South Africa of incredible plant diversity, which is facing threats of urban development, encroaching agriculture, and invasive alien species (6).


Honeysuckle heath conservation

Within the Cape Floristic Region there are a number of protected areas (7), and a number of conservation organisations are working to conserve this botanically rich habitat (6) (8). Conservation actions include purchasing land to protect it from the threats of encroaching agriculture and urban development (8), the removal of alien plants, and the establishment of new protected areas (6); measures that should benefit the threatened subspecies of the honeysuckle heath.


Find out more

For further information on the Cape Floristic Region and its conservation see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: arkive@wildscreen.org.uk


The part of a stamen (the male reproductive organ of a flower) that produces pollen.
Cape Floristic Region
An area occupying about 90,000 square kilometres in South Africa that contains an incredibly high diversity of plant species (around 8,700 species), of which 68 percent are found no where else.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
To have transferred pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. Heywood, V.H. (1978) Flowering Plants of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  2. Paterson-Jones, C. and Manning, J. (2007) Ecoguide Fynbos. Briza Publications, Pretoria, South Africa.
  3. Threatened Species Programme. (2007) Interim Red Data List of South African Plant Taxa. South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria, South Africa. Available at:
  4. Goldblatt, P. and Manning, J. (2000) Cape Plants: A Conspectus of the Cape Flora of South Africa. National Botanical Institute of South Africa, Pretoria .
  5. Private Life of Plants(BBC tx. 1995).
  6. Conservation International: Biodiversity Hotspots (February, 2008)
  7. UNEP-WCMC: Cape Floral Protected Areas of South Africa (February, 2008)
  8. Fauna and Flora International (February, 2008)

Image credit

Erica abietina ssp. constantiana in flower  
Erica abietina ssp. constantiana in flower

© Colin Paterson-Jones / naturalvisions.co.uk

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