Epacris pulchella

Coral Heath, Wallum Heath

Family: Ericaceae subfam. Epacridoideae

A slender erect shrub to 1.5 metres high (but usually shorter) – spreading to 1 metre across, usually with several erect and well-separated branches.

It has a natural range mainly in coastal NSW, moving just into the tablelands regions, north from Conjola and Ettrema Creek, north along the coast into SE Queensland where the northern extent in Fraser Island.

It grows in sclerophyll shrublands and heath as well as open dry sclerophyll woodland and forest on sandy soils (usually sandstone-based). It can also be found on shale-sandstone transtions, laterite and enriched sandy soils.

Epacris spp. have simple leaves which are either generally alternate but arranged in a condensed fashion on the stems in overlapping arrangements or scattered; and with parallel venation which can be best seen on the undersides. Sometimes, the base of leaves clasps the stem. In this species, leaves are mid to dark green to about 10 mm long and 4 mm wide with an almost heart-shape and conspicuous tapering apex. The leaves are very crowded on the stem and it creates a very interesting texture when run through the hand. The foliage is somewhat prickly. The branchlets are woolly.

Epacris spp. have 5-petaled flowers with petals separated to produce a “star-shape” or fused into a tube. In this species, starry-white flowers are produced solitarily in leaf axils, to 8 mm in diameter, white or pinkish, and are clustered together in large numbers, like the leaves, to create leafy inflorescences. Main flowering in summer to autumn.

Epacris spp. produce a small capsule which, in this species, is to 2 mm long.

In the garden

This species has been cultivated for some time. It prefers semi-shade / dappled light and moist sandy soil. Plant in a rockery or incorporate chunks of sandstone into the planting to recreate natural habitat features and allow for easy drainage.

Mulch around the base will help retain soil moisture as Epacris plants resent drying out and root disturbance.

No recorded pests of diseases. Frost hardy to -7 degrees C.

The flowers contain nectar and are frequented by honey-eating birds.

Very nice architectural plant in terms fo foliage.

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 hard to collect.

Other information

This species likely regenerates from seed after fire.

Epacris is a genus of about 40 species found in Australia and New Zealand. Australia has 38 species, with most being endemic, occurring in all states except Northern Territory and Western Australia. NSW currently has 31 species.

The ‘epacrid’ family has undergone the following reclassifications:

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

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

pulchella….. From Latin pulchellus, meaning pretty or beautiful, referring to the appearance of the plant.

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

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Epacris pulchella profile page

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

Australian Native Plant Society Australia – Epacris pulchella profile page https://anpsa.org.au/plant_profiles/epacris-pulchella/

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