Open the Advanced Search

Cross-leaved Heath

Erica tetralix

Please keep in mind that it is illegal to uproot a plant without the landowner's consent and care should be taken at all times not to damage wild plants. Wild plants should never be picked for pleasure and some plants are protected by law.
For more information please download the BSBI Code of Conduct PDF document.


Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ericaceae (Heath)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
50 centimetres tall
Bogs, fens, heathland, meadows, moorland, mountains, seaside, wetland, woodland.

Pink, 4 petals
The flowers of Cross-leaved Heath are visually captivating, displaying delicate hues ranging from pale pink to deep purple. Arranged in dense spikes, these blooms create a stunning contrast against the backdrop of the plant's cross-like whorls of leaves. The intricate floral structure and vibrant colors make Cross-leaved Heath an attractive feature in the heathlands and moorlands of the United Kingdom. The blooms typically grace the plant from June to September, adding a touch of beauty to these unique habitats.
The fruit of Cross-leaved Heath in the United Kingdom is typically a small capsule. After flowering, the plant forms these capsules, each containing tiny seeds. As the capsules mature, they may release the seeds into the surrounding environment. The fruit is a modest yet essential part of the plant's reproductive cycle, contributing to its ability to spread and colonize suitable habitats in the UK, such as heathlands and moorlands.
The leaves of Cross-leaved Heath are arranged in whorls of four, creating a distinctive cross-like pattern along the stems. These leaves are small and narrow, with a needle-like appearance. They contribute to the plant's characteristic aesthetic and are well-adapted to its heathland and moorland habitats in the United Kingdom. The evergreen nature of the leaves allows Cross-leaved Heath to maintain its foliage throughout the year, providing a continuous presence in the landscape.
Cross-leaved Heath is known for its subtle and delicate fragrance. The blossoms of this plant emit a light and pleasant scent, often described as sweet and heath-like. While not as intensely fragrant as some other flowering plants, the gentle aroma adds to the overall sensory experience when encountering Cross-leaved Heath in the wild. The fragrance is often appreciated in natural settings, contributing to the allure of heathlands and moorlands in the United Kingdom where this plant is commonly found.
Other Names:
Bog Heather, Four-leaved Winter Heath, Pink Star Cross-leaved Heath, Pink Star Cross-leaved Heather.
Frequency (UK):

Similar Species

Other Information


Erica tetralix, also known as cross-leaved heath or four-leaved winter heath, is a species of flowering plant that is native to Europe and parts of Asia. It is a perennial evergreen shrub that typically grows to be about 20-30 cm tall. It has small bell-shaped pink or white flowers that bloom in late spring and summer. The leaves are needle-like and are arranged in fours around the stem, giving the plant its common name. The plant is commonly found in bogs, fens, and damp moorland and heath. It is also used as an ornamental plant and for landscaping.


Erica tetralix, commonly known as Cross-leaved Heath, is a species of flowering plant that belongs to the Ericaceae family. This plant is native to northern Europe and is found in moist, acidic soils such as bogs, heathlands, and moors.

Cross-leaved Heath is a small, evergreen shrub that typically grows up to 30cm in height. It has small, needle-like leaves that are arranged in whorls of four around the stem, giving it the characteristic cross-like appearance. The plant produces small, bell-shaped pink or purple flowers that bloom from June to September.

One of the most striking features of Cross-leaved Heath is its ability to thrive in harsh and acidic environments. The plant has adapted to these conditions by developing a specialized root system that allows it to extract nutrients and water from the acidic soil. It also has a thick, waxy coating on its leaves that helps to prevent water loss and protect the plant from damage.

In addition to its adaptability, Cross-leaved Heath also plays an important ecological role. The plant provides habitat and food for a variety of insects, including bees, butterflies, and moths. It is also an important food source for grazing animals such as sheep and deer.

Cross-leaved Heath has a long history of use in traditional medicine. The plant contains compounds that are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and has been used to treat a variety of ailments including coughs, colds, and digestive issues.

Despite its importance, Cross-leaved Heath is facing a number of threats in the wild. Habitat destruction and fragmentation, as well as changes in climate and land use, are all contributing to declines in populations of this species. Conservation efforts are underway to protect and restore the plant's habitat, and to raise awareness about its ecological importance.

Cross-leaved Heath, like many other heathland plants, is a fire-adapted species. In the absence of regular fires, the plant can become overgrown and eventually die out. However, too frequent or intense fires can also be detrimental to the plant's survival. This delicate balance highlights the importance of proper land management and conservation efforts to ensure the continued survival of this species.

In addition to its ecological and medicinal significance, Cross-leaved Heath has also been used for various cultural and historical purposes. The plant has been used as a dye for wool and cloth, as well as for basket weaving and thatching. In some parts of Europe, it was also believed to have magical and protective properties and was used to ward off evil spirits.

In terms of cultivation, Cross-leaved Heath is a popular ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes, particularly in rock gardens, heathland gardens, and alpine gardens. It prefers acidic, well-drained soils and partial shade, and can be propagated through seed or cuttings.

In terms of its ecological significance, Cross-leaved Heath is an important component of heathland ecosystems, which are globally rare and threatened habitats. These ecosystems provide crucial habitat for a variety of plant and animal species, including many rare and endangered species. Heathlands also play a crucial role in carbon sequestration and in regulating water flow and quality.

One of the major threats to heathland ecosystems, including those that support Cross-leaved Heath, is habitat loss and fragmentation due to human activities such as land use change and urbanization. Climate change is also a significant threat, as it can alter the timing and frequency of rainfall, leading to changes in soil moisture and affecting the growth and reproduction of heathland plants.

Conservation efforts to protect heathland ecosystems, including those that support Cross-leaved Heath, are underway around the world. These efforts include habitat restoration and management, the removal of invasive species, and the establishment of protected areas. In addition, public education and awareness-raising campaigns are also important in promoting the value and importance of heathland ecosystems and the need for their conservation.

Cross-leaved Heath is also an important food source for wildlife. The flowers of the plant provide nectar for a variety of insect species, including bumblebees and hoverflies, while the seeds are an important food source for birds such as finches and siskins. The plant's foliage is also browsed by deer and other grazing animals.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, Cross-leaved Heath has been the subject of scientific research due to its potential medicinal properties. The plant contains compounds that are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and may have potential in the treatment of conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and arthritis. However, further research is needed to fully understand the medicinal properties of the plant and its potential uses in modern medicine.

Cross-leaved Heath also has practical uses. The plant has been used as a source of fuel and for smoking fish and meat due to its aromatic qualities. In addition, the plant has been used for tanning leather and as a natural insect repellent.

In terms of its appearance, Cross-leaved Heath is a beautiful plant that adds a touch of color and texture to heathland landscapes. Its delicate pink or purple flowers and distinctive cross-shaped foliage make it a popular ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes.

Overall, Cross-leaved Heath is a fascinating and versatile plant species that plays an important role in ecological, cultural, and medicinal contexts. Its adaptability, ecological importance, and cultural significance all highlight the need for its protection and conservation, while its potential medicinal properties and practical uses provide further reasons to value and appreciate this valuable plant.

30 Interesting Cross-leaved Heath Facts

  1. Scientific Name: Cross-leaved Heath is scientifically known as Erica tetralix.

  2. Habitat: It is a native plant of heathlands, bogs, and moors, typically found in acidic and damp soils.

  3. Floral Arrangement: The flowers of Cross-leaved Heath are arranged in dense spikes, creating a visually striking appearance.

  4. Blooming Season: The plant blooms from June to October, displaying beautiful pink to purple flowers.

  5. Cross-like Leaves: As the name suggests, the leaves are arranged in whorls of four, forming a cross-like pattern along the stems.

  6. Bog Indicator: Cross-leaved Heath is often used as an indicator species for acidic and boggy environments.

  7. Insect-Friendly: The flowers attract various insects, including bees and butterflies, making it ecologically valuable.

  8. Dwarf Shrub: It is a low-growing, evergreen dwarf shrub that typically reaches heights of 10 to 50 centimeters.

  9. Cultural Significance: In some cultures, heather has been associated with good luck and protection.

  10. Traditional Uses: Historically, Cross-leaved Heath has been used for thatching roofs, bedding, and even broom-making.

  11. Ericaceous Plants: It belongs to the Ericaceae family, which includes other heath and heather species.

  12. Mycorrhizal Associations: Cross-leaved Heath forms mycorrhizal associations with fungi, aiding in nutrient uptake.

  13. Biodiversity Support: It contributes to biodiversity by providing habitat and food for various wildlife species.

  14. Peat Formation: Cross-leaved Heath is often found in peat-forming environments, playing a role in peatland ecosystems.

  15. Culinary Uses: While not commonly consumed, some historical accounts mention the use of heather in brewing and as a tea substitute.

  16. Adaptation to Harsh Conditions: It has adaptations such as small leaves and a shallow root system, allowing it to thrive in nutrient-poor soils.

  17. Fire Resistance: The plant can regenerate after fires, and its presence can inhibit further fires in certain ecosystems.

  18. Longevity: Cross-leaved Heath can live for many years, contributing to the stability of heathland ecosystems.

  19. Wildlife Shelter: Its dense growth provides shelter for small mammals and insects in harsh environmental conditions.

  20. Seed Dispersal: Seeds are dispersed by the wind, contributing to the plant's ability to colonize new areas.

  21. Variability in Flower Color: Flower color can vary from pale pink to deep purple, adding to the plant's aesthetic diversity.

  22. Phenotypic Plasticity: Cross-leaved Heath exhibits phenotypic plasticity, adapting its form based on environmental conditions.

  23. Global Distribution: It is found in various countries across Europe, including the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Scandinavia.

  24. Conservation Concerns: In some regions, Cross-leaved Heath faces threats due to habitat loss and land-use changes.

  25. Waterlogged Tolerance: It has a high tolerance for waterlogged conditions, making it resilient in wetland environments.

  26. Root Nodules: Cross-leaved Heath can form root nodules, enhancing its ability to fix nitrogen in nutrient-poor soils.

  27. Seedbank Longevity: Seeds can remain viable in the soil for an extended period, contributing to the plant's persistence.

  28. Ethnobotanical History: Some traditional medicinal uses of heather include its use in herbal teas for various ailments.

  29. Aesthetic Value: Cross-leaved Heath is often valued for its aesthetic qualities and is a popular subject for nature enthusiasts and photographers.

  30. Ecological Restoration: It is sometimes used in ecological restoration projects to restore heathland and peat bog ecosystems.


Cross-leaved Heath filmed at the following locations:
  • Kentmere, Cumbria: 1st June 2023
  • Foulshaw Moss, Cumbria: 8th July 2023

Please remember to Like and Subscribe to the WildFlowerWeb YouTube channel at

Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

Click to open an Interactive Map