This section is from the book "Sub-Alpine Plants Or Flowers Of The Swiss Woods And Meadows", by H. Stuart Thompson. Also available from Amazon: Sub-Alpine Plants: Or, Flowers of the Swiss Woods and Meadows.
About 400 species inhabiting Europe, the Mediterranean region, and S. Africa, but with only one truly native species in Switzerland, viz. Erica carnea; for though E. vagans (the Cornish Heath) grows in the Canton de Geneve in a wood near Juvigny, and at the foot of the Voirons above Lake Leman, it is doubtfully indigenous, though it is native on French territory to the west.
A shrubby, somewhat prostrate plant, with branches 3 inches to 1 foot long, erect or ascending, glabrous like the whole plant. Leaves 4 or more in a whorl, deciduous, acicular. Flowers in terminal, spicate, usually unilateral racemes. Petals tubular-urceolate. Stamens and styles projecting from the corolla. Calyx and corolla rose-coloured, rarely white, anthers purple-black.
Rocks, margins of woods, and in the woods themselves, up to 8500 feet, often covering large tracts; local, and almost always on limestone. April, May.
Carpathians, Eastern, Central, and Western Alps, Central and Southern Europe.
It is interesting to note that, according to Keller and Schinz, no fewer than 9 of the 13 Swiss plants belonging to Ericaceae have been seen in that country up to 2400 metres (7870 feet), and 3 reach 3000 m. They do not place Pyrola in this family, as we have done in accordance with old tradition.
Very beautiful white or greenish white flowers, in racemes or rarely solitary, nodding. Corolla globose or spreading, of 5 free or slightly connate petals. Sepals 5. Stamens 10. Style prominent. Ovary 5-celled. Leaves glabrous.
A small genus confined to the northern hemisphere of the Old and New World.
Stem 2-4 inches high, erect, 1-flowered, slender, leafless except at the base, and springing from a single slender root-fibre, which absorbs water and nutriment from the moss and decaying pine-needles upon which it grows. Leaves ovate, roundish, suddenly narrowed into a foot-stalk, finely serrate, usually in loose rosettes. Corolla shallow, white, nodding. Stigma large, 5-lobed. Anthers orange.
1. ANTENNARIA DIOICA.
2. HYPERICUM RICHERI.
3. PYROLA UNIFLORA.
4. PYROLA SECUNDA.
5 HYPERICUM MACULATUM.
6. MYRICARIA GERMANICA.
4/7 NATURAL SIZE.
Margins of moist woods in shady, mossy places, and frequently growing in a bed of pine-needles; 1500-5600 feet; not frequent.
Erzgebirge, Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Vosges, Cevennes, Pyrenees, Corsica, Arctic Europe and Asia, North America. British.
Mr. Reginald Farrer aptly points out that this little gem has "only one feeble, long, white piece of cotton by way of a root," but at Lanslebourg he found it growing in slaty silt in a wood, and producing "normal masses of compact roots exactly like any other decent plant's."1
Stem erect, leafless except at the base, often reddish, with several red scaly bracts near the summit. Leaves roundish or ovate, entire or obscurely crenate, dark green, shining, and leathery. Raceme loose, many-flowered. Calyx and teeth lanceolate, acuminate, with apex recurved, half as long as the shallow, widely open corolla. Stamens curved upwards. Style bent downwards, with the apex ascending, thickened above in a ring, and there as wide as the stigma, projecting from the corolla. Flowers white. Anthers and style orange-red.
1 Among the Hills (1911), p. 21.
Shady, Alpine, and sub-alpine woods. June, July.
Eastern, Central, and Western Alps; Europe, Central and Northern Asia, N. America. British.