Estimates show that Britain and Ireland’s
lowland heath together make up 20% of the world’s lowland heath.
This habitat is home to many special plants and animals, including
some that are rare.
If you come across an area full of low-growing woody plants such
as heathers, bilberry or western gorse - collectively known as
dwarf-shrubs - then it probably means you're on heathland.
What is 'lowland heath'?
Lowland heath is land whose vegetation has at least 25%
dwarf-shrub cover and is found below an altitude of about
250m-300m. In Wales, most of our lowland heath is found to the west
- along the coasts of the Gower, Pembrokeshire, the Llyn Peninsula
These western heaths include species such as western gorse and
bell heather, along with common heather and, often, a high cover of
purple moor-grass as a result of the damp, oceanic climate.
Lowland heath is also found on the fringes of the uplands, or
'ffridd', where the transition to upland heath takes place as the
Restricted lowland heath
Wales also has some very restricted lowland heaths. In
Ceredigion, for example, keep an eye open for unique river shingle
heaths; or look for the limestone heaths of north Wales, most
notably those of the Great Orme near Llandudno.
Closer to the sea, within reach of the salt spray from the
breaking waves, you'll find maritime heath. This habitat is
characterised by maritime species such as spring squill, thrift,
sea plantain and buckthorn plantain. Maritime heath is often very
open, with stunted dwarf-shrubs growing amongst patches of bare
soil and rock. This is because plants such as heather and gorse are
not very tolerant of the sea-spray and so do not grow well in these
situations. Pembrokeshire and Anglesey have the largest areas of
maritime heath in Wales.