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Australian Floral Emblems - Epacris impressa

Epacris impressa (the "Common Heath") is the floral emblem of Victoria although it also occurs in New South Wales, Tasmania and South Australia. It is usually a small shrub, rarely exceeding half a metre in height, with stiff stems and short, tapered leaves with a pungent point. Flowers are long and narrow and appear from late winter to early summer. The colour may vary from white through to red but deep pink is the most common form in Victoria. It is the pink form which is the floral emblem.

Epacris gives its name to the family to which it belongs (Epacridaceae). This is primarily an Australian plant family with some similarities to the well known Erica family (Ericaceae). Other plant genera in the Epacridaceae include Dracophyllum, Leucopogon, Richea, Sprengelia and Woolsia.

In the following article Ross Field, former President of the Victorian Region of SGAP, describes his association with this particularly special plant.

My association with Epacris impressa goes back a long way. Back to my school days when I only knew of it as "Pink Heath" and that it was our State floral emblem. In 1974, when I was 16 and still safely nestled amongst those school days, our family joined the newly-forming SGAP Springvale and District Group.

After only a couple of months I volunteered to help Ken Mitchell, foundation Secretary of the Group, and Ian Starkey, budding nurseryman, rescue some local flora from the path of a bulldozer. Herein began my interest in 'our' indigenous flora.

Even in those early days, Epacris impressa seemed to be a good project to work on. When I took up photography in 1976, I began collecting pictures of different forms. In Springvale naturally occurring specimens seemed to be restricted to white flowers, with only rumours of pink-flowering plants.

The pink-flowered form of Epacris impressa is an eye-catching site in the Grampian (Gariwerd) National Park in western Victoria. Select the thumbnail image or plant name for a higher resolution image (39k).

A few years later Springvale and District Group was required to propagate the heath on a mass scale for Yellingbo State Nature Reserve. Our methods were successful, so Dad and I set about propagating a large number of plants for our own garden.

We took tip, heel and anything-in-between cuttings and placed them in a standard medium of 3-4 parts coarse washed river sand to 1 part sieved peat moss, with a dash of the soil from around the base of the plants we had collected the cuttings from.

I had heard a speaker once tell of the suspected mycorrhiza association of epacris and the soil was included so as "not to take chances". We kept some·of the soil we had collected and added it to the potting·mix when it came time to pot-on the struck cuttings.

Of course, this method is very unclean and very unscientific. It was also very successful for us and if you visit our front garden during the winter/early spring months you will see the fruits of our labours in all their resplendent glory.


  • Tip cutting - A piece of a plant stem which includes the actively growing end (or "tip") of the stem
  • Heel cutting - A piece of a plant stem which is taken at the point where the stem joins another stem. The cutting usually includes a small piece of the bark from the junction of the two stems and this is referred to as the "heel".
  • Mycorrhiza - A soil fungus which exists in a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with a plant.

Reproduced from the September 1988 issue of the newsletter of the Victorian Region of SGAP

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Australian Plants online - December 1996
The Society for Growing Australian Plants