Calluna vulgaris


Family: Ericaceae

Origin: Eurasia and North Africa

A field of purple heather.
Heather is a common flowering plant for gardens. It quickly becomes weedy in NZ conditions.
Photo credit: R. Renwick

Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) status

  • National Pest Plant Accord Species
  • Whole region — Sustained control

View more about the RPMP statuses

General description

Heather is here defined as all Calluna vulgaris cultivars, except those that are double-flowered. Bushy evergreen perennial shrub < 50 cm tall. Stems are woody and pliable. Leaves are small, stalkless and arranged in four vertical rows. Flowers are small, purple/pink, bell-shaped and produced in spring.

What you need to know

To help protect our environment:

  • You must not breed, distribute, release or sell heather. As heather is a National Pest Plant Accord species, these restrictions apply within the Auckland region and across the whole of New Zealand.
  • You must not plant heather within the Auckland region, unless you are transferring an existing plant on your land to another location within the boundaries of the same property.
  • You must destroy any heather on land that you occupy if it has been planted in breach of the above rules and you are directed to do so by an authorised person.


Grassland, tussock, shrublands.


Seeds dispersed by wind and animals. Vegetative spread from layering. Human-mediated dispersal through contamination of footwear and machinery.

Impact on environment

Forms dense thickets and outcompetes native vegetation. Alters resource availability and habitat structure, reducing native invertebrate diversity. Reduces cover of preferred food plants and lowers pasture productivity.


Site Management

Follow up treated areas 3 times per year. Encourage natural regeneration of native plants or replant treated areas where possible after 2-3 treatments to establish dense ground cover and minimise reinvasion.

Recommended approaches

Physical control

Method: Dig out.

Plant parts requiring disposal: All parts.

Disposal options: Remove to greenwaste or landfill if practical.


Check for presence of agents:

Heather beetle (Lochmaea suturalis).

For more information about how biocontrol works, see What is biocontrol?

Community agrichemical control recommendations

No qualifications: Cut stump and paste freshly cut base of stems with metsulfuron gel.

Basic Growsafe certified: Cut stump and spray freshly cut base with 1g metsulfuron-methyl per 1 L of water.

Certified Handler/Experienced agrichemical user: Foliar spray with 5g metsulfuron-methyl per 10L of water and 20ml penetrant.

Caution: When using any herbicide or pesticide please read the label thoroughly to ensure that all instructions and safety requirements are followed.

A field of flowering heather.
Grows in many conditions, a very hardy plant. Heather is commonly found on Auckland roadsides.
Photo credit: Landcare Research
Heather stem tips showing flowers.
A prolific flowering shrub, Heather comes in different colours. Their small leaves protect the plant from winter conditions.
Photo credit: Environment Bay of Plenty
Close up of Heather in flower.
Flowers appear in spring creating vistas of colour. Seeds are spread by wind and animals.
Photo credit: S. Timmins
Heather growing in field of grass.
A vigorous growing plant that forms dense thickets. Outcompetes native plants.
Photo credit: S. Timmins