A Spring Flower Update on the Cairngorms Wild Plants Project

Gwenda Diack

Gwenda Diack

Cairngorms Wild Plants Project Officer

4th June 2018

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© Gwenda Diack/Plantlife

As I slowly make my way up into Cairngorms mountains, stopping to admire the mountain plants along the way provides me with a welcome breather! Apart from a few late-lying snow beds on Cairngorms mountain tops, there is no sign of the cold bite of winter which snapped at impudent young leaves right up to the end of April and into May. Spring has sprung, days are long and Cairngorm’s wild plants have been making up for lost time. It is an amazing time to see some of the mountain flowers such as cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus - pictured above) with its bramble like leaves and flowers in amongst the heather.

This plant is one which always lifts my heart when I see it on a hillwalk and I am not alone. Carol, one of Cairngorms Flora Guardians, chose it as one of her favourite mountain plants and wrote this about it.

“Cloudberry is related to brambles and raspberries with a white flower and then a red fruit turning pale orange it ripens in August. I first saw the fruit when walking on Ben Avon and Beinn a'Bhuird,in August 2013.

I had no idea what it was but the friend who identified it told me it was a highly sought after fruit especially in Sweden where it is made into jams and desserts. It isn’t grown commercially and is apparently relatively scarce occurring in patches rather than wide-spread. It grows on wet peat-based land above 600m. It creeps across the ground and has no thorns, with crinkly palmate leaves, and there are separate male and female plants.

I shall be looking out for this next time and hoping to come across a cluster to sample one or two”.

This shows that later in the season, there is still much in store. But to mark spring, here's another photo of cloudberry with it’s petals gone but still with pretty pink sepals putting on a show:

Cloudberry sepals

Also, not to be outdone, the symmetrical dwarf cornel (Cornus suecica) with it’s beady black eyes is also putting on a magnificent show at this time of year. A walk from the Cairngorm Day Lodge can reward you with both!

Dwarf cornel (Cornus suecica)

Yes, it’s a fine time to go for a walk in the arctic alpine world of our mountain tops. A word of warning though to those looking to log those steps or feel the burn in leg muscles.If you take a moment to look around and start to see all the wild plants out there, don’t expect to go too far. But instead, expect to enrich each (slow) step with a heightened awareness of Cairngorms wild plants’ response to the change in seasons.

Find out more:

Cairngorms_Pinus_sylvestris_treeline 1 (c) Peter Mulligan under Creative Commons.jpg

Cairngorms Wild Plants project

Building on the work of the Cairngorms Rare Plants Project, our new Cairngorms Wild Plants Project - covering both arctic-alpine flora and Caledonian pinewood – aims to secure the future of these habitats.

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