12 days of a (wildlife) Christmas - five purple Lings

Heather, ling {Calluna vulgaris}, Ross Hoddinott/2020VISION

Traditionally for the fifth day of Christmas we would be receiving five purple rings birds but instead we are going with five purple lings!

Heather which is also called Ling, is a species that is found in Suffolk on our heathlands. Ling is a tough plant growing is areas that are often exposed and able to live up to an impressive 40 years. It is identified by its woody stems growing in clumps with leaves in rows and has pretty delicate purple flowers the stems. 

Ling is kept in good company by other species of heather in Suffolk and it can be spotted next to bell heather identified by you guessed it, it’s bell like flowers and crossed leaved heather with its leaves growing in whorls up its woody stems. Like the other species of heather, Ling provides a great source of food to necatring species come when it flowers and due to its small leaves and therefore low levels of water evaporation, it stays in flower for a longer period of time feeding many hungry invertebrates.  

Heather has had a long history with people in Britain and has had lots of different uses over the years including being used for thatched rooves, ropes, bedding material and brooms which is how this plant received its Latin name Callunais – which translates as to brush.

In Ipswich, we are lucky to have several different areas that Ling and the other species of heather can be found for example, Purdis, Bixely  and Rushmere Heath and alongside these comes a wealth of other species such as the green tiger beetle, adders and nightjar and a personal favourite, Glow worms.

Although not displaying in all their purple glory at this time of year, you can still see the woody carpet heather creates across heathlands being present all year round, and a walk on the heaths in Ipswich is still enjoyable this time of year and certainly blows away the cobwebbs on a crisp windy day!