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(Epacris or Heath family)


Members of this family of 375 species in 31 genera are found from Indochina to New Zealand, Hawai‘i, and South America, but chiefly in Australia and Tasmania, representing the Ericaceae of other continents on heath and boggy ground. The principal genera are Dracophyllum Labill. with about 48 species, Epacris Cav. with 40 species, and Leucopogon R.Br. with 120 species (Mabberley 1997).

Some may be found in cultivation as ornamentals, including several Dracophyllum species, Epacris paludosa R.Br., Epacris petrophila Hook.f., Lissanthe sapida R.Br., Lissanthe strigosa R.Br., Pentachondra pumila R.Br., and Prionotes cerinthoides R.Br. (Hunt 1968/70).

Many species have sharply-pointed prickly leaves. The following are representative:

Acrotriche affinis DC. — Prickly Honeypots
Acrotriche patula R.Br. — Prickly Ground-Berry
[syn. Styphelia patula Spreng.]
Acrotriche serrulata R.Br. — Honeypots
[syn. Styphelia serrulata Labill.]
Leucopogon fraseri A.Cunn. ex DC. — Sharp Beard-Heath
[syn. Styphelia fraseri F.Muell.]
Leucopogon juniperinus R.Br. — Prickly Beard-Heath, Prickly Heath, Long Flower Beard-Heath
[syns Styphelia juniperina Pers., Cyathodes juniperina Druce, Epacris juniperina J.R.Forst. & G.Forst.]
Monotoca scoparia R.Br. — Prickly Broom Heath
[syn. Styphelia scoparia Sm.] 
• Medicinal / Folk-medicinal aspects: •
• Adverse effects: Several members of this family have sharply pointed leaves with the potential to cause mechanical injury to the skin. •
• Veterinary aspects: One species has been suspected of causing dermatitis in sheep. •

Astroloma humifusum R.Br.
[syns Styphelia humifusa Pers., Ventenatia humifusa Cav.]
Native Cranberry, Cranberry Heath

This Australian species forms a prostrate very prickly shrub with edible fleshy fruit. It should not be confused with the cranberries belonging to the genus Vaccinium L. (fam. Ericaceae).

Lissanthe strigosa R.Br.
[syn. Styphelia strigosa Sm.]
Peach Heath, Peach Berry

This wiry shrub with sharply pointed narrow-linear leaves and edible fruit is found in eastern Australia. It has been suspected of causing pustular dermatitis in sheep (Hurst 1942).


  • Hunt P (Ed.) (1968/70) The Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia of Gardening. London: Marshall Cavendish [WorldCat]
  • Hurst E (1942) The Poison Plants of New South Wales. Sydney: NSW Poison Plants Committee [WorldCat] [url]
  • Mabberley DJ (1997) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the vascular plants. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Richard J. Schmidt

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