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Mackay's Heath

Erica mackayana

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ericaceae (Heath)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
1 metre tall
Bogs, gardens, heathland, rocky places, seaside.

Pink, 4 petals
Purplish-pink bell-shaped flowers that appear in spiked clusters at the ends of the branches. Flowers measure about 6mm in length.
The fruit is a capsule and produces the seeds.
The leaves are dark green and have less inrolled margins than most other species of heath. The leaves are also broader than those of most other heaths. The upper surfaces of the leaves are hairless. Can be found in north-west Ireland along the coast.
Frequency (UK):
Rarely seen  

Other Information


Erica mackayana is a species of heather that is native to the Cape Province of South Africa. It is a small evergreen shrub that typically grows to be about 20-30 centimeters tall, but it can reach up to 1 meter in ideal conditions. It has small, pink or white flowers that bloom in the late winter or early spring. The species is often used as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscaping, it is also suitable for container gardening, rock gardens and coastal gardens. E. mackayana is drought tolerant and requires well-drained soils, it prefers full sun or light shade. The plant is hardy and can tolerate temperatures down to -5°C.


Mackay's Heath, or Erica mackayana, is a beautiful and unique plant species that is native to the southwestern region of Western Australia. This plant is part of the family Ericaceae, which also includes well-known plants such as blueberries and cranberries. Mackay's Heath is named after William Mackay, a Scottish botanist who discovered the plant in the late 19th century.

One of the most striking features of Mackay's Heath is its bright red flowers. The plant typically flowers in the late winter and early spring, producing clusters of tubular-shaped flowers that are around 2 cm long. The flowers are held on thin, wiry stems that stand above the plant's evergreen foliage, making them an eye-catching addition to any garden or landscape.

Mackay's Heath is a relatively small shrub, growing to around 1 metre in height and spreading outwards to around 1.5 metres. The plant has small, narrow leaves that are dark green and slightly sticky to the touch. These leaves provide an attractive backdrop for the bright red flowers, which can be seen from a distance and make the plant a popular choice for gardeners looking to add some colour to their garden.

In the wild, Mackay's Heath is found in a range of habitats, including coastal heathlands, woodland margins, and rocky outcrops. The plant is adapted to the sandy soils of Western Australia and is able to tolerate drought conditions. However, it does require well-drained soil and prefers a sunny position.

Mackay's Heath is not widely cultivated outside of its native range, but it is a popular choice for native gardens and landscaping projects in Western Australia. The plant is easy to grow and care for, and it can be propagated from seed or cuttings. Once established, it requires minimal maintenance and is generally pest and disease-free.

Like many species of flora and fauna in Western Australia, Mackay's Heath is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. The plant is listed as a priority species under the Western Australian Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, which means that it is a species of conservation concern and is afforded special protection.

Mackay's Heath has some interesting ecological features. For example, it has a symbiotic relationship with soil fungi, which help the plant absorb nutrients from the soil. This is a common trait in the Ericaceae family, and it is one of the reasons why these plants are well adapted to nutrient-poor soils.

Another interesting fact about Mackay's Heath is that it is highly flammable. The plant contains oils that can ignite easily, and it is known to contribute to bushfires in its native range. However, despite this potential risk, the plant is an important part of the ecosystem in Western Australia, providing habitat and food for a range of insects and birds.

Mackay's Heath has also been used traditionally by Indigenous Australians for medicinal purposes. The leaves were crushed and applied as a poultice to wounds, and the plant was also used as a treatment for colds and other respiratory illnesses.

In recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential of Mackay's Heath as a source of natural compounds for use in the pharmaceutical industry. Studies have shown that the plant contains a range of bioactive compounds, including antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, that could have potential health benefits.

Mackay's Heath is a fascinating and beautiful plant species with a range of ecological, cultural, and medicinal values. Its striking appearance and hardy nature make it a popular choice for gardens and landscaping, while its importance as a conservation priority species highlights the need for continued efforts to protect and conserve the plant in its native range.

Mackay's Heath is an important food source for a range of insects and birds, including bees, butterflies, and honeyeaters. The plant's bright red flowers are particularly attractive to nectar-feeding birds, which help to pollinate the plant and ensure its reproduction.

In addition to its ecological and cultural significance, Mackay's Heath is also important from a scientific perspective. The plant has been the subject of numerous studies on plant evolution and adaptation, and it is widely used in research on plant genetics and molecular biology.

Despite its many benefits, Mackay's Heath is threatened by a range of factors, including habitat loss and fragmentation, wildfire, and climate change. As such, there is a growing need for conservation efforts to protect the plant and its habitat.

Fortunately, there are a range of conservation measures in place to help protect Mackay's Heath and other threatened plant species in Western Australia. These include the establishment of protected areas, such as national parks and nature reserves, as well as the implementation of measures to reduce the risk of wildfire and manage invasive plant species.

There is also growing awareness of the importance of preserving the cultural knowledge and practices associated with Mackay's Heath and other native plant species. Many Indigenous communities in Western Australia have a deep knowledge of the plant's traditional uses and ecological significance, and efforts are underway to document and preserve this knowledge for future generations.

In conclusion, Mackay's Heath is a beautiful and unique plant species with a range of ecological, cultural, and scientific values. While it faces a range of threats, there are many efforts underway to protect and conserve the plant, and it remains an important part of the Western Australian landscape and ecosystem.