Fire heath (Erica cerinthoides)

Fire heath or Rooihartjie

Erica cerinthoides - Photo by Marie Viljoen

Introduction:

An indigenous garden is simply not complete without this little redhead (Morita-nkoe (Sesotho) or Rooihartjie (Afrikaans)) will light one corner in your garden.  This plant does well in our cool grassland vegetation of Lesotho although care must be taken if planted in the garden as it is naturally growing on rocky sand stone cliffs.

Description:

Ericaeae – Heath family

The common name of “Fire heath” relates to this plant because it is one of the few ericas that can resprout after a fire. In fact fire keeps this plant in good healthy condition and stimulates flowering at any time of the year.

It is an erect shrub that typically grows between 300-900mm tall, however it can reach 1.5m if not burnt. Leaves needle –like, 6-10mm long.  It has woody rootstock.  Flowers in clusters at ends of branches and they are long and tubular with dark red pinkish sepals and densely hairy.

Full bloom end of May – June. Flowers throughout winter even on snowy conditions, although it is not impervious to server frost.

Cultivation and Care:

‘Eric cerinthoides’ is easily grown from both seed and cuttings. This plant prefers full sun (North East or East facing slopes), well drained and shallow sandy soil, no supplementary feeding required.  Excess of irrigation result in water logging conditions and kill the plant.

Plant use:

It can generally be used as a garden plant where it is expected to survive a long time or as a cut flower as its red inflorescence can last for a longer period without loosing its color.

Distribution:

This species grows wild in the northern region of Lesotho especially in the Butha-Buthe district.

On your trip to snowcapped mountains (‘Moteng pass, Oxbow, Tlaeng pass) the species could be seen along the road side sand stone cliffs in Botha-Bothe foothills.

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