Western Isles Wildflowers
Western Isles wildflowers is a collection of information about our Hebridean wildflowers including identification hints, traditional herbal uses and general plant lore.
Gaelic name: Biadh na Circe-fraoich, Fraoch a' Bhadain,
Purple Heather is also known as fine-leaved heath and bell heather.
We get 3 species of heather in the Western Isles. The purple heather is the first to flower (starts flowering in mid-June) it grows on dry moorland and rocks throughout the islands. The flowers are very deep pink to purple and bell-like.
Cross-leaved heath prefers the wetter areas, it grows on damp moorland and in bogs, alongside the bog asphodel. Cross-leaved heath is pale pink with bell-like flowers and is the rarer of the species.
Later in the year the ling comes into flower and dominates the moorland landscape, flowering on heath and moor throughout the isles. Ling has tiny lilac flowers which are not bell-like.
It is said that in Scotland the red heather is stained with the blood of the clan wars and that is why the white heather is said to be lucky, bringing protection for all that wear it from all manner of violence and will bring good fortune.
In the old days it was used for tanning the hides, making ale, thatching roofs, stuffing mattresses (Perhaps a bit scratchy!) basketry, rope making and brooms.
A yellow dye can be produced from the plant.
It was also used for such ailments as cystitis, hay fever, dandruff, coughs, depression, heart conditions, arthritis and rheumatism. An all round magical and useful plant.
These days it is burnt off the moor to make way for the new grass to feed the sheep!
Purple heather is a native plant of the Western Isles.
Photography© Suzanne Harris
Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
Left photograph August 2005
Right photograph 12th June 2007
Notes by Suzanne and Ela