This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Though it is so widespread to-day Ling is not known from any early deposits. It is found in the North Temperate and Arctic Zones in Arctic Europe, not in Greece or Turkey, W. Siberia, Azores, Greenland, N. America. It is found also in all vice-counties of Great Britain as far north as the Shetlands, ascending to 3300 ft. in the Higfhlands. It is native in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Ling is essentially a heath and moorland plant, contributing so largely to those formations as to constitute, like Whortleberry, an association of its own. With it one finds Whortleberry, various Heaths, Furze, and Broom, and it is more widely distributed upon the high ground or hills in the British Isles, but in the south and elsewhere covers as well many lowland moors and heaths over wide areas.
Heather is a low-branched shrub, erect, downy, with reddish stems, with small, threadlike, stalkless, opposite, erect leaves, overlapping,1 in 4 rows, and arrow-shaped. The leaves are smooth, small, and hoary, and hollow below. The stem is woody. A variety with downy stems and leaves occurs.
The flowers are purple, and are more or less turned one way, in racemes, numerous, drooping, bell-shaped, on very short flower-stalks, and the calyx is double, erect, i.e. in an inverted position, hairy on the margin, red or green and purple. The corolla is small, enclosed in the inflated calyx, persistent, with 4 lance-shaped bracts at the base giving the red colour. There are 8 anther-stalks, the anthers nearly united, being orange, and bearing two horn-like projections covered with rough hairs.
The plant is from 1-2 ft. high. The flowers bloom from February to July. Ling is an evergreen shrub propagated by cuttings, and worthy of cultivation.
The flower is bell-shaped and horizontal, the stamens and pistil are curved upwards, and insects press the proboscis under them, so that less pollen is wasted than if they were in the middle. The corolla is 2-3 mm. long, cleft, 4-fid near the base. Alternating with the stamens are 8 black glands which contain honey, and can be reached by short-lipped insects. When large bees cling to the flower with the foreleg they weigh it down until it is vertical, and hanging on below they suck the honey and dust themselves with pollen on the back. Small bees thrust their head or proboscis down from the front, and the upward bend of the stamens causes them to enter the lower half, and thus dust themselves also with pollen. As the bud opens, the anthers open, and the appendages, set with spreading hairs at right angles, are so far apart that they are sure to be touched by the insect's proboscis, and when the anthers are touched pollen falls. After the flower is open the style, which is longer than the stamens, grows, and only completes its growth after the anthers have opened. Then the 4-fid stigma is mature. The projection of the stigma before the opening of the anthers ensures cross-pollination. It is not self-pollinated. The visitors are Honey-bee, Bombus, Diphysis, Saropoda, Andrena, Vespa, Chrysotoxum, Melithreptus, Syritta, Sericomyia, Cheilosia, Syrphus, Thysanoptera, Thrips.
1 In damp places they are more spreading.
The capsule is divided into septa, and when dry these break off and the seeds fall out or are blown away.
Three beetles, Ceuthorhynchus ericoe, Stenus lustrator, Luperus flavipes; Thrips ericoe, a Thysanopterous insect; Lepidoptera, Emperor Moth (Saturnia carpini), True Lover's Knot (Agrotis porphyrea), Narrow-winged Pug (Eupithecia nanata), Feathered Footman (Eulepia grammica), Speckled Footman (E. cribrum), Light Knot - grass (Acronycta menyanthidis), Beautiful Yellow Underwing (Anarta myrtilli); Heteroptera, Camptobrochis pustulatus, Eroticoris rufescens, Sehirus biguttatus, Capsus scutellaris; Homoptera, Alopa reticulata, Thamnotettix strictulella, Dicraneura aureola, feed on Heather.
Photo. B. Hanley - Llng (Calluna Vulgaris, Hull)
Calluna is from the Greek calluno, I cleanse, as with the brooms made of it; and the second Latin name refers to its common occurrence.
Ling is also called Basam, Bend, Bent, Bream, Broom, Cat-heather, Dog-heather, Gowlins, Grig, Griglans, Hadder, Hather, Heath, Dog, Long, Red, and Small Heath, Heather, He Heather, Heth, Black or Crow Ling, Ling-berry, Moor. It is called Broom from its use in making brooms. There was an Act of Parliament, 4 and 5 William and Mary, Cap. 23, which forbade anyone to burn on any common or waste between Candlemas and Midsummer any Grigg, heath, etc., and if they did they would be punishable with whipping and imprisonment. In modern times Ling is protected, as at Croydon. Laws still exist as to when moors may be burnt. It was called Ling Heath to distinguish it (as being taller) from the shorter heaths. The name He Heather was bestowed from its superiority as a fodder, for sheep have an aversion to other heaths because of their bitter taste.
It covers a great part of the North, and affords good fodder, when there is nothing else, for sheep. The milk of cows is supposed to be coloured red by it. It is used with earth to make Highland cottages, and for thatching and bedding. Leather was formerly tanned with it, and it was used for yellow and orange dyes. Brooms, brushes, and baskets are made from the shoots. Ale was brewed from the young tops. It was used for mending roads and heating ovens. The honey from the flowers is dark in colour.
Essential Specific Characters: 193. Calluna vulgaris, Hull. - Shrub, tufted, stem wiry, procumbent or ascending, leaves imbricate, small, downy, sessile, in 4 opposite rows, flowers lilac, rose, in drooping racemes, corolla bell-shaped, calyx rose-coloured, with 4 bracts.