heather

Tenos

Senior Member
Arabic
In a letter by Charles Darwin to his friend, J. D. Hooker, he said:

By the way, at Moor Park, I saw rather a pretty case of the effects of animals on vegetation : there are enormous commons with clumps of old Scotch firs on the hills, and about eight or ten years ago some of these commons were enclosed, and all round the clumps nice young trees are springing up by the million, looking exactly as if planted, so many are of the same age. In other parts of the common, not yet enclosed, I looked for miles and not one young tree could be seen. I then went near (within quarter of a mile of the clumps) and looked closely in the heather, and there I found tens of thousands of young Scotch firs (thirty in one square yard) with their tops nibbled off by the few cattle which occasionally roam over these wretched heaths.

Can anyone guess which meaning of "heather" he had in mind?
 
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  • grassy

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I then went near (within quarter of a mile of the clumps) and looked closely in the heather, and there I found tens of thousands of young Scotch firs (thirty in one square yard) with their tops nibbled off by the few cattle which occasionally roam over these wretched heaths.
    I imagine there were clumps of heather (the plant) there and fir seedlings were growing among them.

    Something like this, except it's a pine, not a fir: :D
    01572669.jpg
     

    Tenos

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    well, I understood it in another way but not sure about it: I think that may be he is using "heather" and "heath" interchangeably, and he meant by "heath" a wasteland!!!
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    well, I understood it in another way but not sure about it: I think that may be he is using "heather" and "heath" interchangeably, and he meant by "heath" a wasteland!!!
    I'm with the others here. He's speaking of Calluna vulgaris.

    Darwin cites the fight of these little firs in the third chapter of The Origin of Species.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    He definitely means heather the plant, because he says he 'looked closely in it'.
    I am more familiar with the northern term 'moorland' , high tree-less land covered with heather. I think of 'heaths' as more scrubland. Wasteland is something different. It would have been interesting to know where this Moor Park is.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    well, I understood it in another way but not sure about it: I think that may be he is using "heather" and "heath" interchangeably :cross:, and he meant by "heath" a wasteland!!!
    No-one uses "heather" and "heath" interchangeably.


    When there is an area covered with one type of vegetation, we can speak of something being 'in' the vegetation.

    There was a man standing in the trees.

    My golf ball was lost in the long grass.

    There are young firs growing in the heather.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No-one uses heather and heath interchangeably when heath means moor. There is a type of ground or landform called heath, moor, heathland or moorland. (There are regional and historical differences between heath and moor, but they largely overlap.) It is covered mainly with a plant called heath, heather, or ling. Historically heath is the Southern form, heather the Scottish (and they seem not to be related), but now heather is the general name for the kind of plant. Individual species may be called X heath or Y heather but, as far as I can tell, there's no consistent distinction between the two.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    No-one uses heather and heath interchangeably when heath means moor. There is a type of ground or landform called heath, moor, heathland or moorland. (There are regional and historical differences between heath and moor, but they largely overlap.) It is covered mainly with a plant called heath, heather, or ling. Historically heath is the Southern form, heather the Scottish (and they seem not to be related), but now heather is the general name for the kind of plant. Individual species may be called X heath or Y heather but, as far as I can tell, there's no consistent distinction between the two.
    Good to see you posting authoritatively in a thread about Darwin, Entangled. :)
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I will add one point that is obvious to Brits but perhaps not so obvious to Tenos: the heathers are a family of familiar low bushy plants that cover a substantial part of Britain as illustrated in #5 - especially, but not exclusively, upland, northerly and westerly parts.
     
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    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    And the firs are using the heather as cover early in their growth cycle. If they continue to grow and prosper, they will dwarf the heather in height one day.
     
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