Epacris longiflora

Fuchsia Heath, Native Fuchsia, Scarlet Epacris or Cigarette Flower

Family: Ericaceae subfam. Epacridoideae

An erect to spreading shrub, to 2 metres high, usually with a narrow spread of multiple stems, with stems having prominent short and broad leaf-scars;

The geographic range extends mainly along coastal New South Wales, from north of Eden on the south coast with a patchy distribution, heading northwards; then very concentrated around Wollongong and Sydney, as well as the Blue Mountains, where it is easily found. It is then found somehwat disjunctly thorugh the north coast hinterland, west of Kempsey, Dorrigo and Grafton in separate populations. It extends just into Queensland, found to the south-west and south-east of Rathdowney.

It grows in wet coastal heath and shrubland to the fringes of eucalypt forests and woodlands. It favours a well-drained but moist sandy soil and is particularly common along sheltered seepage lines on sandstone, such as in the Sydney Sandstone Basin.

Epacris spp. have simple and stiff leaves which are sometimes prickly, alternate to whorled and imbricate (overlapping), with parallel venation obvious on the undersurface – a feature of many plants in this family. In this species, they are to 17 mm long and about 7 mm wide, mostly ovate but with a tapering apex which ends in a somewhat prickly point; dark to mid green and paler beneath, with margins minutely toothed.

Epacris spp. have tubular to open flowers with 5 petals or lobes, produced solitarily in leaf axils but produced heavily on stems, creating leafy inflorescences. In this species, they are very distinctive, being tubular to 3 cm long, red/pink with white tips, creating a very conspicuous show. Flowers can be continuous along branches for over 30 cm.

The fruits are very small capsules, to about 4 mm long.

In the garden

This species is known to be cultivated but belongs to a family of plants which have proven difficult to grow.

E. longiflora does best in well-draining sandy soils, planted in partial shade protected from frost or the full sun. Mulch around the base will help retain soil moisture which is important as plants won’t tolerate drying out.

Hard to grow if moist sandy soils are not present. They dislike root disturbance, so it is a good idea to apply a layer of leaf litter or bark chips to deter weeds. Some gardeners report that growing them in a pot also works well. Hence, a good container plant.

Attracts nectar eating birds.

Note: The ‘epacrids’ or ‘Australian Heaths’ (meaning family Ericaceae subfam. Epacridoideae (previously family Epacridaceae) are a notoriously difficult group of plants to grow in Australian gardens. They are very attractive but do not usually survive well in garden conditions. This is likely due to specific relationships that this plant group has with mycorrhizal fungi (root-fungi) along with difficulties in re-creating their natural specific habitats (such as wet sandstone heathland) in gardens. Native nurseries continue to progress in propagation and so all we can do is trial them and hope for the best. Some Epacris species were successfully cultivated in England in the early days for a time.


From cuttings, as seed is hard to collect.

Species from this plant family are historically difficult to propagate, likely due to specific root-fungus (mycorrhizal) associations.

Other information

Epacris is a genus of about 40 species occurring in Australia and New Zealand. A total of 38 species are endemic, occurring in all states except Northern Terriotory and Western Australia. NSW currently has 31 species.

The ‘epacrid’ family has undergone the following reclassifications:

  • From Family Epacridaceae to Family Ericaceae (named for Ericasubfam. Styphelioideae (named for Styphelia)
  • From subfam. Styphelioideae to subfam. Epacridoideae (named for Epacris)

E. longiflora regenerates from soil-stored seed bank in the event of fire.

Epacris – from the Greek epi– (επι) meaning “upon” or “on” and akris (άκρης) meaning “edge” – referring to the often-seen rocky and cliff habitat of species in the genus.

longiflora – from Latin longus meaning “long” or “extended” and flos/florus meaning “flower”, referring to the comparitively long flowers of the species.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

Australian National Herbarium – Epacris longiflora profile page      https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/trainees-2018/epacris-longiflora.html

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Epacris longiflora profile page          http://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Epacris~longiflora

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.