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A calcifuge is a plant that does not tolerate alkaline (basic) soil.[1] The word is derived from the Latin 'to flee from chalk'. These plants are also described as ericaceous, as the prototypical calcifuge is the genus Erica (heaths). It is not the presence of carbonate or hydroxide ions per se that these plants cannot tolerate, but the fact that under alkaline conditions, iron becomes less soluble. Consequently, calcifuges grown on alkaline soils often develop the symptoms of iron deficiency, i.e. interveinal chlorosis of new growth. There are many horticultural plants which are calcifuges, most of which require an 'ericaceous' compost with a low pH, composed principally of Sphagnum moss peat.

A plant that thrives in lime-rich soils is known as a calcicole.

Examples[2]


  • Styrax wilsonii

  • Nepenthes (pitcher plants; but some species are calcitolerant or even calciphilous)

  • Utricularia (bladderworts; but some species are calcitolerant or calciphilous)

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