The charity Plant Heritage is urging gardeners to grow heathers again, as the perennial woody shrub is at serious risk of being reduced to a handful of cultivars. Heather, once a favourite because it’s hardy, low-maintenance, has a long growing season-some varieties bloom for four months-and attracts bees, seems to have fallen out of fashion. Some 62% of all Erica cultivars listed in the RHS Plant Finder are at risk, according to the Threatened Plants project, which classifies 146 as extinct. Erica carnea Mr Reeves has not been found since 1969, and Erica cinerea Lilian Martin has not been cultivated for 35 years. Plant Heritage’s Mercy Morris says the problem is that heathers are now considered rather ‘1970s’. ‘They are sold in garden centres almost as bedding plants, with little or no information, so there is little to pique the interest of the keen gardener. The industry must act to prevent a potential mass extinction by growing more named heathers and starting a National Plant Collection.’

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