Scientific name Ulex gallii – Erica cinerea heath
Common name Western Gorse – Bell Heather heath
Community code HE2A

 

HE2A: Ulex gallii – Erica cinerea heath     HE2A: Ulex gallii – Erica cinerea heath     HE2A map: Ulex gallii – Erica cinerea heath

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Vegetation

Spiny, dark green patches of Ulex gallii dominate this heathland community, accompanied by bushes of Calluna vulgaris and Erica cinerea. Amongst these are usually found trailing stems of Potentilla erecta and often a few tufts of Molinia caerulea. Carex binervis and Carex panicea are frequent. The bryophyte layer mainly consists of Hypnum jutlandicum. Other species are only occasional, with grasses such as Agrostis canina/vinealis, Agrostis capillaris, Anthoxanthum odoratum and Danthonia decumbens coming through where grazing has broken up the dwarf shrub layer.

 

Ecology

This heath community occurs predominantly on the lower slopes of hills and mountains and along coastal cliff-tops. Soils are acidic, relatively well-draining and of low fertility.

 

Sub-communities

Two sub-communities have been described. The Daboecia cantabrica – Hypochaeris radicata sub-community (HE2Ai) is predominantly a regional variety from mid-west Ireland from peat-free soils, occasionally with some basic influence. The Hypnum jutlandicum – Hylocomium splendens sub-community (HE2Aii) is the more widespread, typical assemblage.

 

Similar communities

This is a distinctive assemblage, since in no other community is Ulex gallii as frequent as it is here.

 

Conservation value

Most examples of this vegetation qualify as EU Annex I habitat 4030 Dry heaths. Where Molinia caerulea is abundant, habitat 4010 Wet heaths should be considered. This is on average a moderately species-poor heath community.

 

Management

These heaths may be used as rough grazing land (typically for sheep), in which case burning may be periodically used across large areas to suppress the dwarf shrubs and encourage grass growth. Overgrazing can also be a problem, resulting in the decline of Erica and Calluna. Another threat is agricultural improvement. Stretches of heath along coastal cliffs are often unsuitable for grazing and are essentially unmanaged.