A low, bushy, evergreen shrub of heath-like aspect, rarely more than 6 or 8 in. high. Leaves grey-green, awl-shaped, 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long, erect and overlapping but not pressed to the stem, hairy. Flowers bright yellow, 1⁄3 in. across, produced during May singly on very slender, silky stalks about 1⁄2 in. long, crowded at the upper parts of the branches; petals five, soon falling; sepals three, silky.
Native of eastern N. America, in dry sandy soil near the coast, from Newfoundland to N. Carolina; introduced in 1805, but always rare owing to the difficulty in cultivation. The late Sir John Ross of Bladensburg, who, so far as I know, is the only one who has had any success with it, told me that it did best planted in a made bed consisting of peat at the bottom, and about 6 in. of sand at the top. So far as winter cold is concerned, it must be hardy anywhere in Britain, considering the high latitudes it reaches in a wild state. But even in American gardens it is not easy to establish. It may be recommended to those knight-errants in gardening who delight in mastering difficult subjects. It probably needs a sandy, well-drained, slightly saline soil, with full sunshine.
A closely related species – H. montana Nutt. – is found in the mountains of N. Carolina.
H. tomentosa Nutt. Beach Heather. – This species is very distinct from H. ericoides in its smaller leaves, which are closely appressed to the stem and almost concealed by the dense, woolly down. Native of north-eastern N. America in sandy places on the coast, around the Great Lakes, and in the prairies.
Forms intermediate between the two species are found where they grow together, as on the sand-barrens of New Jersey. These may be hybrids but curiously enough they also occur in parts of E. Canada where H. ericoides is absent (Gray’s Manual of Botany, Ed. 8 (1950), p. 1018; M’Nab in Edin. New Phil. Journ., No. 35 (1835)).