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ForestHarvest: non-timber forest products in Scotland



Heather, ling (Calluna vulgaris)

Family: Ericaceae


Low bushy shrub with purple flowers.


Heather is mainly found on moorlands, but also among native Scottish pinewoods.


The flowering tops of ling heather are brewed into wine and used to flavour ales (including the commercially available Fraoch produced by the Heather Ale Company). They can also be dried and used as a pleasant substitute for tea.

Beehives are moved to heathery areas in the late summer for the production of heather honey.

Heather produces a green dye, traditionally used in the Harris Tweed industry. It has also been used for tanning leather.

Heather has many other traditional uses, including bedding, rope and thatch. It is still occasionally used for the last of these.

Heather tea is taken to treat urinary infections. It can also be used as an exteral wash for eczema. An armful of heather added to the bath is said to relieve rheumatic pain.


Wild Harvests research - uses in Scotland today

Ling heather: used to provide craft materials for personal use, gifts and processed items for sale

Photo - close up of a mass of ling flower spikes