Three species of heather are found on most of Hampshire’s/Surrey's heathlands. Although widespread, they grow in specific conditions and can be easily differentiated. These plants are able to flourish on the nutrient-poor, acidic heathland soils where grasses are less able to cope. Many invertebrates feed on the heathers and rely on the structure that they provide.Ling is the commonest of the heathers. It produces a lilac carpet of flowers in late August and September. The leaves are small and scale-like while the tiny flowers have separate petals.
Bell heather, as the name suggests, produces purple, bell shaped flowers in mid summer. This heather is widespread, but is only found on drier areas of the heath. The leaves are dark green and needle shaped.
Cross leafed heather is a close relation of bell heather but is only found in the wetter areas of a heath. The light pink, bell shaped flowers are present in early summer. The hairy, needle shaped leaves form a cross shape around the stem.