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Erica baccans

   (Family: Ericaceae)
English: Berryheath, Spanish heath  EDIT
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Plant Type: EDIT  Shrub
Height: 2m
Rarity Status:
Preferred rainfall: Winter
Preferred position:
Full Sun
Tolerated soil:  
pH: acid
Flowering time EDIT
      x x x x x        
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Flower colours
  Insects, birds and wind
  Flower info
  Small, urn-shaped flowers are produced in groups of four at the ends of the branches. The four sepals surrounding the corolla are shaped like the keel of a boat and these ridges help to give each flower a box-like appearance. This Erica is covered with masses of pink flowers from September to November producing spectacular displays on mountain slopes.
Leaf shape EDIT
  Leaf info EDIT
  Its upper branches are liberally covered with fine, upward-pointing, light green needle-like leaves giving this species a ‘soft fynbos' textural effect.
Sow seeds in Autumn
  Seed info EDIT
Description EDIT
An erect, woody, densely branched, strong-growing shrub reaching an average height of 1–2 m. Older specimens may reach a height of over 2.5 m.

It produces masses of tiny, pink, berry-shaped flowers.
Growing EDIT
Plant in full sun, where there is free circulation of air.

Soil type should be free-draining, sandy and acidic with low levels of phosphate. No manure should be used, rather feed with well-rotted compost or slow-release or low dose organic fertilisers. To increase acidity of the soil, decomposed pine needles or pine bark can be mixed into the soil. The planting bed and hole must be cleared of weeds and grass before planting. Mulch with well-rotted compost or pine bark after planting – this helps suppress weeds and prevents soil moisture from evaporating. Ericas have sensitive roots and care should be taken not to disturb them. If weeds are to be removed from around the plant, hold the soil around the weed down firmly first and then remove the weed. This helps prevent disturbance to the delicate erica roots. The best time for planting is in autumn (March– May), when the weather is cooler. Prune plants regularly as this stimulates branching and removes diseased material. Erica baccans has been noted to die in its prime and often when in full flower. Even though it does this, it produces plenty of seed which germinates readily in gardens from seed that matures on the dying plant.

Erica baccans can be propagated from either cuttings or seed. Take cuttings in autumn or spring. Semi-hard wood tip or heel cuttings are recommended. A higher percentage of rooting is achieved if a rooting hormone is applied. The recommended rooting medium is half sifted pine bark combined with half polystyrene or perlite for good aeration. Place the cuttings in a mist unit with bottom heat. Rooting should start within a month and develop over a period of 2 to 3 months. Remove tray of rooted cuttings from the rooting area and place on benches indoors in a well lit and ventilated area to harden off. This should take about a month during which the cuttings should be fed with an organic fertilizer.

Sow seed in autumn (April–May) in 100 mm deep seed trays. Higher percentage germination is achieved if the seeds are first treated with Instant Smoke Plus Seed Primer or a similar smoke treatment. The soil medium used should be acidic and well drained (e.g. half riversand and half sifted composted bark mixed together). It is important to sow seeds thinly and evenly to prevent overcrowding and damping off. This can be done by mixing seed with fine, dry sand before sowing and spreading the sand and seed evenly over the seed tray. Cover with a thin layer of sand after sowing. Water gently and keep the tray moist, but not wet, and out of direct sunlight and rain. Germination occurs within 1–2 months. Move the tray to a more sunny position when the seedlings are about 5 mm tall. Pot up when they are about 10 mm tall and keep lightly shaded and well watered until hardened off (1–3 months). It is important that the seedlings are potted into the correct size containers which are not too big. The best results have been achieved when potting into multi-trays or unigro plugs in which the seedlings can become established. The young established plants are then moved into direct sunlight and grown on and pruned to shape until large enough to be planted into the garden.
Distribution EDIT
It is endemic to Table Mountain, usually found on the lower parts of Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos.

Grows in groups or communities on warm, rocky mountain slopes or in damp to moist places at lower altitudes.
History EDIT
The species name baccans is derived from Latin, and means berry-like, referring to the shape and colour of the flowers.
It is easily grown in a variety of garden conditions and is a rewarding and decorative garden plant. It is becoming increasingly popular as an ornamental plant in Cape Town gardens.

An excellent garden shrub. Its flowers are certainly a joy to admire and are long-lasting in the vase.
Ecology EDIT
It is a re-seeder which means it is killed by fire. Many thousands of seeds are produced each year and germinate prolifically after fire or on disturbed land.

The species is naturalised in parts of Australia where it colonises disturbed sites. This species is regarded as an environmental weed in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, and as a potential environmental weed or "sleeper weed " in other parts of southern Australia. It is currently of most concern in Victoria, where it has invaded heathlands, woodlands, grasslands and dry sclerophyll forests.

Berry -flowered heath (Erica baccans) appears on numerous local environmental weed lists (e.g. in the Yarra Ranges, Mornington Peninsula and Cardinia shires) and has also been recorded growing in several conservation areas (e.g. in Grampians National Park, Arthurs Seat State Park and Rosebud Reserve) in this state. It is listed as a major environmental weed in Arthurs Seat State Park and is considered to be a potential threat to the survival of the endangered Frankston Spider-orchid (Caladenia robinsonii) in Rosebud Reserve near Melbourne.

Berry-flowered heath (Erica baccans) is also regarded as an invasive plant of bushland in the Adelaide Hills district in south-eastern South Australia. It is also reported to be invading intact native vegetation in Montacute Conservation Park, to the north-east of Adelaide, in the Southern Mount Lofty Mountains region. In Western Australia, berry -flowered heath (Erica baccans) has become naturalised at Albany and along the Shannon River, where it grows in disturbed sites, on hills, and in jarrah woodlands.
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