Erica cinerea


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Erica cinerea
Species Authority: L.
Common Name(s):
English Bell Heather

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-04-09
Assessor(s): Khela, S.
Reviewer(s): Leaman, D.J., Miller, R.M., Oldfield, S. & Vela, E.
Contributor(s): Barreto Caldas, F
Global and European regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)
EU 27 regional assessment: Least Concern (LC)

Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) is mostly restricted to moors and heathland, but the species is also found in gorse, coastal dunes and occasionally in woodland. It is endemic to western Europe, where it is abundant in the UK, France and northern Spain. This species is classed as Least Concern as it is widespread and abundant in parts of its range and the risk of the species going extinct in Europe is quite low. However, the area of dry heathland and moors is declining throughout Europe due to overgrazing, inadequate management and peat extraction, and Bell Heather populations have also declined in parts of its range. More detailed information on population declines and threats is needed, particularly in Portugal and Italy, where its distribution is limited. The species is found in several protected areas, but subpopulations that do not occur in protected areas would benefit from habitat protection to prevent further declines. Habitat management of European dry heaths through grazing is required to ensure its survival. This habitat is listed under Natura 2000.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Bell Heather (Erica cinerea) occurs in western Europe and the Faroe Islands; it has mistakenly been reported in Algeria (Valdés 2009). There are 1,288 records of occurrence in northern Spain (Anthos 2010), and Portugal. It is widespread in the UK and France (Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora 2012, INPN 2012). In Italy its distribution is restricted to the northwest (Schede di botanica 2013). Its distribution in Norway is restricted to the south (Artsdatabanken 2010); in Germany it remains in only one area. Its precise distribution in Belgium and the Netherlands is unknown.
Belgium; Faroe Islands; France (France (mainland)); Germany; Ireland; Italy (Italy (mainland)); Netherlands; Norway; Portugal (Portugal (mainland)); Spain (Spain (mainland)); United Kingdom (Great Britain, Northern Ireland)
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: The number of individuals is unknown, but it remains abundant in the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Portugal. In the United Kingdom this species is widespread and common, though it has declined in southern England from loss of heathland habitat, and encroachment of rank grass and scrub following reduction in sheep and rabbit grazing (Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora 2012). Declines have also been documented in Norway (Artsdatabanken 2010).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Bell Heather is a small shrub found on moors and well-drained heaths, growing on acidic peaty soils and as an undershrub in pine or oak woodland, and also frequently disturbed sites (Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora 2012, Vera 1997). Nearly all European dry heath is semi-natural, having developed through a long history of grazing and burning, and most are managed extensively for grazing livestock (Hampton 2008). It is also found on coastal dunes and gorse heaths (European Environment Agency 2010).
Systems: Terrestrial

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: An extract of the flowers of Erica cinerea is used for skin conditioning as a tonic (European Commission 2013).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The area of dry heathland and moors is declining throughout Europe due to overgrazing, inadequate management and peat extraction. Loss of heathland and chalkland heath is a threat to wildflowers in southeast England, as is encroachment of rank grass and scrub following reduction in sheep and rabbit grazing; peat extraction also causes a decline in the area and quality of the habitat (Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora 2012). Coastal heath is also in sharp decline in Norway, and heather is lost with urban settlements, industrial development, and the afforestation of uplands (Artsdatabanken 2010).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is listed as Least Concern in the UK (Cheffings and Farrell 2005), Near Threatened in the Netherlands (van der Meijden 2000) and Norway (nearly meeting IUCN criteria A2c+3c; Artsdatabanken 2010), Vulnerable in Belgium (Van Landuyt et al. 2006), and Critically Endangered in Germany (Bundesamt für Naturschutz 2012). Given its large distribution in France, Spain and Portugal, it is unlikely to be threatened in those countries.

Bell Heather is found in two Natura 2000 sites in Germany, six in France, two in Italy and three in Spain and Portugal. In the United Kingdom, a large part of its distribution occurs in National Parks (European Environment Agency 2010). Habitat management of European dry heaths through grazing is required to ensure its survival. This habitat is listed under Natura 2000.

Bibliography [top]

Anthos. 2010. Information System of the plants of Spain. Real Jardín Botánico, CSIC – Fundación Biodiversidad. Available at:

Artsdatabanken. 2010. Red List Database (Informasjon om rødlistede arter er nå i Artsportalen). Trondheim Available at:

Botanical Society of the British Isles and the Biological Records Centre. 2012. Online Atlas of the British and Irish Flora. Available at:

Bundesamt für Naturschutz. 2012. FloraWeb. Bonn Available at:

Cheffings, C.M. and Farrell, L. (eds). 2005. The vascular plant Red Data List for Great Britain. Species status No. 7. Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough.

European Commission. 2013. Ingredient : ERICA CINEREA FLOWER EXTRACT. Available at:

European Environment Agency. 2010. European Nature Information System (EUNIS). Copenhagen K, Denmark. Available at:

Hampton, M. 2008. Management of Natura 2000 habitats. 4010 Northern Atlantic wet heaths with Erica tetralix . In: European Commission (ed.).

Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel. 2012. Inventaire National du Patrimoine Naturel (INPN). Available at:

IUCN. 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2013.2). Available at: (Accessed: 13 November 2013).

Schede di botanica. 2013. Flora Italiana. Available at:

Valdés, B.; with contributions from Raab-Straube, E. von and Parolly, G. 2009. Ericaceae. In: Euro+Med Plantbase - the information resource for Euro-Mediterranean plant diversity. Berlin Available at:

van der Meijden, R., Odé, B., Groen, L.G., Witte, R. and Bal, D. 2000. Bedreigde en kwetsbare vaatplanten in Nederland. Basisrapport met voorstel vor de Rode Lijst. Gorteria 26(1-208).

Van Landuyt, W., Vanhecke, L. and Hoste, I. 2006. Rode Lijst van de vaatplanten van Vlaanderen en het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest. In: W. Van Landuyt, I. Hoste, L. Vanhecke, P. Van den Bremt, E. Vercruysse and D. De Beer (eds), Atlas van de Flora van Vlaanderen en het Brussels Gewest, NBO en Nationale Plantentuin van België, Brussels/Meise.

Vera, M.L. 1997. Effects of altitude and seed size on germination and seedling survival of heathland plants in north Spain. Plant Ecology 133(1): 101-106.

Citation: Khela, S. 2013. Erica cinerea. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015.2. <>. Downloaded on 04 September 2015.
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