Any of the approximately 500 species of low evergreen shrubs that make up the genus Erica , in the heath family , most native to South Africa.
Some also occur in the Mediterranean and in northern Europe, and species have been introduced to North America. They have small, narrow leaves arranged in whorls set closely together on the shoots. Some African species are large bushes or trees. The white, or tree, heath ( E. arborea ) is also known as brier . Some southern African species are cultivated in cool greenhouses and outdoors in southwestern North America.