Erica x vanleuvenii: an artificial double-cross, spring-flowering heather
In 2002, Johannes van Leuven (Gelderen, Germany) obtained viable seed after pollinating Erica x veitchii (Veitch’s hybrid heath) with pollen of Erica x darleyensis (Darley Dale hybrid heath). Ten seedlings were raised, one of which was a bushy, white-flowered shrub. By 2015, that plant was blooming profusely and was self-pollinated. From its seeds, seedlings with upright habits and fresh green foliage were raised. One was noticeably different having dark brown-green foliage. This dark-foliaged plant, named ‘Dark Star’, was propagated, and for commercial purposes is “twinned” with the contrasting gold-foliaged ‘Albert’s Gold’. The two plants have similar habits when they are young, so they combine well for sales display.
This is the first authenticated example of a “double cross” hybrid in Erica, one involving two hybrids as parents. The “family tree” of the “double cross” thus involves four species of heather: Erica carnea (winter heath), Erica erigena (Irish heath), Erica arborea (tree heather) and Erica lusitanica (Portuguese heath).
Erica x vanleuvenii was formally named in The Plant Review 5 (March 2023), in tribute to Johannes van Leuven, current owner of Gartenbau Johannes van Leuwen, a leading producer of pot-grown hardy heathers.
Erica x vanleuvenii ‘Dark Star’ is hardy and lime-tolerant. It blooms (in eastern England outdoors) in (March–)April–May, earlier under glass (in western Germany).