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Thread: Heather

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
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    2,669

    Default Heather

    Searching the BeeSource archives for information on heather did not reveal all that much. It has come up a time or two - but I couldn't find any recent posts.

    So I'm wondering if heather is a good plant to add to the mix of things that bloom during July/August - My plan would be to plant it along a hedgerow that I have and along field edges. I hope that after a few years it will have spread enough to amount to a decent nectar source for the bees. Far fetched? I have acidic soil so no problem there!

    I am not looking to collect heather honey but rather to add to what is available to bees during our usual dearth period.

    So specific questions - What is reasonable planting density? How quickly does it spread? What varieties are known to be good for honey production?

    Trying to think outside the box!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    McClure, OH
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    1,017

    Default Re: Heather

    Brother Adam tested his queens on the heather crop in the Dartmoor. I believe it is a quick crystalizing honey that he extracted all and replaced with syrup as he believed it caused the bees to winter poorly. I don't think this will be a concern since you are planting it (not enough to get a crop unless you are planting several square miles of it). However, I would think that pretty much any variety would yield. The fact that it grows wild means that it is pretty tough and self-sufficient (and hard to mess up).

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    West Bath, Maine, United States
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    1,044

    Default Re: Heather

    I picked up a heather plant a Lowes in late April that had bees all over it in the parking lot. My bees worked it hard until there were options, then it was ignored all summer though it bloomed. Did not overwinter, and I have not tried again. Low density (Single Porch Plant) was probably more of a factor than the plant itself though.
    4 yrs, Peak 14, back to zip, T lite; godfather to brother's 3.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
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    Washington County, Maine
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    Default Re: Heather

    I got a response on Facebook that someone near me successfully grows a variety of heathers and so I will try a few plants next year. (darn those catalogs!)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Clackamas Oregon
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    693

    Default Re: Heather

    We have a lot of heathers that bloom in spring before dandelion. It is a low growing shrub.
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Location
    Greater Hartford area, CT
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    202

    Default Re: Heather

    I believe there are 2 types of heather. Calluna vulgaris blooms in late summer/fall. Those in the genus Erica in spring.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Location
    Stockholm, NJ, USA
    Posts
    59

    Default Re: Heather

    The erica type are not hardy for freezing climates. The ling type are the ones fhat grows wild in scotland and are best suited for cold climates

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Clackamas Oregon
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    693

    Default Re: Heather

    I do not know the type, I may even be incorrect about the plant. It is currently one of the only things blooming except a couple of early Crocus. I had a flying day last week and the bees were coming in with red pollen, it was suggested that it may be maple. I went and looked at all the different types of Maple I could find and it was way to early for them still (cold year). I am now thinking the red Heather (we get red and white).
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Morro Bay, California, USA
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    690

    Default Re: Heather

    Spring blooming "heather" is likely a cultivar of the South African (Cape Province) genus Erica. These are not frost hardy, being from the mild winter Mediterranean climate of the south Cape.
    Bees work landscape plantings of this for pollen in my region in December and January.

    New England, Scottish and German heathland "heather" is now in the genus Calluna. It naturally blooms in August-September. Calluna vulgaris, is self-incompatible and must be cross pollinated. This has permitted the bewildering development of hundreds of cultivars. Some of the cultivars are sterile (and must be vegetatively reproduced). My suspicion is that some nectar and pollen production has been lost in the push to create ornamental cultivars with enlarged,unusually colored, and doubled flowers, etc. Stamens (the pollen bearing structure) are often lost when petal parts are doubled in garden selection. Chemicals (colchicine) are applied to mutate the plant to provide unusual, sterile and non-hardy specimens for the creation of cultivars.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
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    Default Re: Heather

    What I have got on order is Calluna vulgaris. Thank you JWChesnut for noting the self-incompatability. I need to do some (more) research!

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Clackamas Oregon
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    693

    Default Re: Heather

    Went to the plant nursery and took a look around. Turns out it is a Erica, the whites are a white sprine or wood white, the Mediterranean came in two types of red Myers Town Ruby and Spring wood Pink. Not saying that that is all there is, just that you guys are on your game for plants. Also found that the other thing I have blooming now I used to call a mountain ash is really a Pieris Japonica
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
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    2,669

    Default Re: Heather

    I am told by my supplier (Fedco) that Heather (Calluna vulgaris) spreads by roots, making a second variety unnecessary.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Chattanooga, TN USA
    Posts
    685

    Default Re: Heather

    All I can say is that I saw a plant at Home Depot that had lots of tiny white flowers that was labeled as "Heather" that I thought the girls would be all over.
    To my knowledge not a single one has touched it. Most I ever saw on it was a single bumblebee.

    So from limited personal experience, they don't touch the stuff if anything else is available.
    Beekeeper since 2013. Read my bee blog at:
    http://harrisonbayhoney.blogspot.com

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Waukesha, WI
    Posts
    177

    Default Re: Heather

    When I saw heather, I'm reminded of those IWF videos. I googled it and found one here (Heathland Beekeeping - 7 - Harvest of Heather Honey in a Skep Apiary):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JDn3DnjpY1A

    I'm not sure it has much of interest with regards to the plant, but...

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