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A shrub of rather open, ungainly habit, usually 3 or 4 ft high, occasionally to 8 ft or more; young shoots erect, covered with a short thick down. Leaves linear, 1⁄4 in. long, glandular on the margins when quite young, arranged in whorls of fours; dark green above, channelled beneath. Flowers borne on the previous year’s growth in clusters of four or eight at the end of the shoot. Corolla cylindrical, 1⁄3 in. long, bright purplish red, with four rounded lobes at the mouth; calyx less than half as long as the corolla, slightly downy; anthers slightly exposed; flower-stalk 1⁄12 in. long. Bot. Mag., t. 8045.
Native of Spain and Portugal, introduced according to Aiton by the then Earl of Coventry in 1769. In the richness and brightness of its colouring it is the best of the taller heaths, and flowers from April to June. Unfortunately it is not absolutely hardy, and very severe winters almost clear the country of it, for which reason it has often been rare. It has lived in the open at Kew since 1896, although sometimes hard hit by frost. It will thrive permanently in the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, etc. In gardens, E. erigena is often confused with it and flowers at the same time, but is readily distinguished by its cylindrical clusters of blossom, the individual flowers coming in the leaf-axils along the shoot – not terminal as in australis. The flower arrangement of E. australis is similar to that of E. terminalis, but the latter only starts to bloom when australis is over, and it does so on the shoots of the current year.