Epacris impressa, also known as Common Heath, is a shrub that is native to the south-east of Australia. The pink-flowered form, often referred to as Pink Heath, is the floral emblem of the state of Victoria.
The plants have an erect habit and can grow to 2 to 3 metres high, although plants in the range of 0.5 to 1 metre tall are more commonly observed. The branches are stiff and have small leaves with prickly, pointed apices that are 8 to 16 mm long. The flowers, which mainly occur between late autumn and early spring are white, pink or red in colour and appear in dense clusters along the stems. They are 1–2 cm long and are narrow and tubular with five indentations on the base. Different colour forms are often observed growing near to each other. Seed capsules are 3.3–3.5 mm long.
The type specimen of Common Heath was collected in 1793 by French botanist Jacques Labillardière in Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania) during a voyage with Bruni D'Entrecasteaux It was described by Labillardiere in 1805 who gave the species its current name Epacris impressa. The Latin specific epithet impressa (meaning "impressed" or "indented") alludes to the indentations on the floral tube.
Epacris impressa is commonly found in coastal regions and nearby foothills in a region extending from the Mount Lofty Ranges in South Australia across southern Victoria and northwards to southern New South Wales as far as the Clyde River. It is also found in the Grampians and the Little Desert in Victoria and is widespread in Tasmania.
Honeyeaters, such as the Eastern Spinebill, are attracted to the flowers in their native habitat. As the bird gathers the nectar, the pollen, which has fins, attaches itself to the feather on the heads of the birds and is thus carried to other flowers, aiding cross pollination.
Forms and cultivars
Common Heath has a large variety of forms and colours. Pink-flowering populations have a relatively distinct genetic makeup, whereas red or white flowering populations have more evident sharing of genetic traits.
In 1977 H.M. Stace and Y.J. Fripp identified four races based on the following corolla characteristics:
- short white, usually found in sites with greater sun exposure
- long pink, in more shaded sites
- long scarlet. Those from the granitic mountains of Wilsons Promontory flower between April and November
- broad pink or white, the grandiflora race from the Grampians
The following forms been selected and grown for cultivation:
- Epacris impressa var. grandiflora (Grampians Heath)
This is a variety from rocky locations in the northern Grampians and the Black Range which was described by George Bentham in 1868. It has larger rose-red flowers and broader, down-covered leaves.  Taxonomically, the name is currently regarded as a synonym of Epacris impressa rather than being classified as a distinct variety, however a number of named forms are commonly cultivated:
- Epacris impressa 'Grandiflora' – leaves and flowers larger than most other forms, single flowers.
- Epacris impressa 'Double Pink' – double flowers
- Epacris impressa 'Grampians' – pale pink flowers
- Epacris impressa 'Bega'
- Epacris impressa 'Cranbourne Bells'
Plants grow best in a moist but well drained, acidic soil. They may be grown in coastal gardens in a sheltered position. They can be short-lived and are difficult to transplant. Propagation both by seed and cuttings is difficult, reducing potential production by plant nurseries. The most satisfactory results from cuttings can be achieved by using tip growth, taken six weeks after the cessation of flowering, and kept under a fogging system for twenty weeks.
At a meeting of representatives of government and other bodies in 1951, the pink form of the Common Heath, the "Pink Heath", was adopted as the official floral emblem for the state of Victoria in 1958. Victoria was the first Australian state to adopt a floral emblem. The proclamation, was as follows:
I, the Governor of the State of Victoria, in the Commonwealth of Australia, by and with the advice of the Executive Council of the said State, do by this my Proclamation declare that the Pink Form of the Common Heath, Epacris impressa Labill., be adopted as the Floral Emblem for the State of Victoria"
An Australian stamp issue of state floral emblems was issued in 1968, including the Pink Heath which was featured on the 13c stamp. The Pink Heath is also depicted on the Victorian driver's licence and, for a number of years up to 2006, the VicRoads registration label. In 1973, a depiction of Pink Heath was added to the armorial ensign for Victoria.
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