Ben Nevis IPA

Location: South east of Fort William in Inverness-shire.

Grid Reference: NN 165 715


Ben Nevis IPA has been recognised as one of 166 Important Plant Areas in the UK.

The key features of this IPA are:

  • The species richness of vascular plants in Arctic, alpine and subalpine scrub habitats
  • The species richness of lichens in Alpine and subalpine grasslands: montane
  • One of the best UK examples of threatened habitats of:
  • Limestone grassland with alpine vegetation;
    Calcareous rocks with crack & fissure vegetation;

    Acidic alpine grassland;
    Acid rocks with crack & fissure vegetation;
    Acidic montane scree

    The Ben Nevis IPA is an extensive and predominantly upland site which encompasses several summits over 1200m, including Britain’s highest mountain. It provides a range of different habitats for wild plants ranging from heather moorland, grass slopes and peaty bogs at the lower levels, through wet heath, upland grassland, bogs and windswept heath. At the summit vegetation is limited mainly to mosses and lichens, many of which are arctic-alpine species. The main habitats here are weather-shattered scree and boulders.

    Plants you could see

    The lower slopes are heather moorland, grass and peaty bogs. Look out for blaeberry (bilberry), heather, mat grass, mosses, thyme and milkworts. Bracken is abundant. Higher up (400-700 m) the main habitats are wet heath, upland grassland and bog. Plants include deer-grass, common butterwort, sundews and bog asphodel. Higher still (700-1200 m), wind-stunted heath precedes weather-shattered scree. Alpine plants such as alpine ladies mantle, procumbent pearlwort, alpine speedwell and dwarf cudweed may be found. You may spot any of a number of alpine saxifrages including yellow mountain saxifrage, starry saxifrage, purple saxifrage, tufted saxifrage, alpine brook saxifrage, golden saxifrage and alpine saxifrage On the summit plateau (1200-1334 m) there are few flowers and vegetation is limited to mainly mosses and lichens, many of which are arctic-alpine species. They include woolly fringe-moss, forming a dense covering on boulders and ground.

    Springtime: bluebell, heath dog violet, marsh marigold, barren strawberry

    Summer: bog asphodel, common butterwort, purple saxifrage, wild thyme

    Autumn and winter: ivy, gorse, a variety of mosses, lichens and fungi including charcoal burner, golden waxcap and orange peel fungus.

    Image: Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries IPA © Anna Trafford