What Is the Meaning of the Heather Flower?

The hardy, pretty plant known as heather is perhaps best known for covering the moors of Scotland with its beautiful purple blooms. However, the heather plant is more than just an attractive ground cover. It has played an important role in history and beyond that, it has a deeper symbolic meaning for people.

heather
credit: KaarinaS/iStock/Getty Images
basket of heather flowers

History

Heather
credit: brightstorm/iStock/Getty Images
pink heather flowers

Heather is native to the regions of Ireland, Scotland, Scandinavia, Russia and North America. Heather is known for its hardiness and its ability to thrive in areas with poor, rocky soil and extreme temperatures. For this reason, the heather plant played an important historical role in daily life, as it was used as thatch for roofing, bedding, fuel, and the making of brooms, baskets and rope. Although heather still grows wild in many parts of the world, it has also been cultivated as a garden and landscaping plant, and cuttings are often used in formal flower arrangements.

Scientific Name

branches of a blossoming heather close up
credit: u_t_a/iStock/Getty Images
purple heather flowers

The scientific name of the heather plant is Calluna vulgaris, deriving from the Greek "Kallune," which means "to clean or brush" and the Latin "vulgaris," which means "common." The name refers both to the fact that in the past wild heather was often made into brooms for sweeping, and that it is an extremely common plant in the regions where it grows.

Color Variety

Heather flowers blossom in august
credit: RTsubin/iStock/Getty Images
colorful heather flowers

While the most common color associated with wild heather is purple, the plant has been cultivated into different colors including white, pink, a wide range of purples and even red.

Meanings

Purple heather
credit: mikfoto_pl/iStock/Getty Images
basket filled with pink heather flowers

Flowers have long been assigned certain symbolic meanings, and the heather flower is no exception. It can represent admiration, beauty and good luck, and it can also be associated with solitude and protection. More specifically, the color of the heather flower influences its meaning. Traditional purple heather is used to represent admiration, beauty and solitude, while pink heather is associated with good luck. If white heather is chosen, it means protection from danger.

Facts about Heather

Heather dekoration
credit: Santje09/iStock/Getty Images
baskets of heather flowers

Heather is an extremely prolific plant. Each heather flower contains about 30 seeds, and in one season a single plant can produce more than 150,000 seeds.

In some parts of the world, heather growth is managed with controlled burns, which helps to encourage the growth of new young heather plants. The tender new shoots provide plentiful grazing for both wildlife and the cattle and sheep raised in rural areas.

In addition to its usefulness in the countryside, the modern uses of heather include its popularity for landscaping in gardens large and small. Heather plants are easy to grow and are resistant to most pests and diseases. Today the plant is prized for its toughness and ability to provide color in the garden all year long.