Maritime heath

Maritime Heath is a colourful Quantock mixture of shrubs: heather, gorse and whortleberry. It helps give the Quantocks its special look. A lot of work and thought goes into looking after it!


Heather grows in many different colours, from white to red. In Scotland they say that the heather flowers are stained red with the blood of battles!

Bell heather

  • Bell heather

Bell heather takes its name from the shape of its flowers. This plant usually grows in damp places and it is very common on boggy ground. The flowers can be white, purple or crimson.

Ling heather

  • Ling heather

"What is Yellow?"

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Ling heather is the most common type of heather. Its flowers are usually purple and grow upwards in spikes. People used to use it to make brushes and brooms, and they wove the stems into baskets. Birds like to eat the seeds, and bees make delicious honey from its nectar.


  • Gorse

Gorse is a prickly shrub with bright yellow flowers. Its black seed pods burst on hot days to release the seeds. Lots of birds like to build their nest in gorse because the thorny branches protect them. In the past people used to hang their clothes on its prickles so they wouldn’t blow away.


  • Rhododendron

Rhododendron. There are hundreds of different types of rhododendron. It can have yellow, blue, purple or pink flowers. It is evergreen and has dark green, shiny leaves. This shrub spreads very quickly and takes over large areas of ground so that other plants can’t grow. Keeping it under control is a challenge to the AONB service.


  • Whortleberry

Whortleberries (or Bilberries) are very special to the Quantocks. They grow in damp, woody areas with acidic soil, and they have sweet, dark purple fruits. In the past, Quantock people used to gather the whortleberries to sell in Bridgewater and Taunton. The berries were usually eaten, but they were also juiced to make a dark blue dye. After a week of picking, the local pubs held a special Sunday celebration where the pickers ate whortleberry pie and drank ale.

Whortleberries can be eaten fresh but they taste better cooked. Today they are often made into jam or puddings. In World War Two some pilots ate whortleberry jam because they thought it helped them see in the dark! Some people also used to make tea with the leaves to help cure stomach upsets.