A region of land that is exposed to strong winds and has poor sandy well drained soil. These conditions are thought to be partly responsible for the absence of trees although heaths are surrounded by forest regions. However many heaths are subclimax communities and lack trees only because they have been regularly burnt to provide grazing land. Heathland is common near the Atlantic coast of Western Europe and on the North European Plain. Heath plants include bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), fine-leaved bell heather (Erica cinerea), gorses (Ulex), and broom (Cytisus scoparius). Despite the acidity, the peat layer is very thin.
Subclimax communities on calcareous soils as seen, for example, on the downs of southeast England, are sometimes called heaths but should correctly be called chalk grassland. These have a very different flora including such species as salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor), upright brome (Zerna erecta), and meadow oat grass (Helictotrichon pratense). If shrubs and trees can grow, as in ungrazed areas, these include yew (Taxus baccata), juniper (Juniperus communis), and hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).