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A small group of some six or seven species of dwarf evergreen shrubs, similar in habit to the heaths, but with stouter stems and larger leaves. Leaves alternate, linear. Flowers bell-shaped or pitcher-shaped, slender-stalked, produced in terminal racemes, umbel-like clusters, or even solitary. Corolla and calyx five-parted; stamens usually ten; seed-vessel a dry, subglobose, five-celled capsule, carrying numerous small seeds.
The genus has by some botanists been united with Bryanthus, but the general practice now is to keep them apart and to confine Bryanthus to one species, B. gmelinii D. Don, on which that genus was originally founded.
With the exception of P. × intermedia these little shrubs require rather special care in the south of England. They inhabit cool, moist altitudes and latitudes, and dislike dryness in the air or at the root. A cool, moist nook on the lower levels of the rock garden, where the soil is peaty, is as good a place as any. Propagation is effected in the same way as recommended for Erica.
There is an excellent study of the genus by Fred Stoker in New Flora and Sylva, Vol. 12, pp. 30-42 (1940).