Caledonian Pinewood, Cairngorms

Native Caledonian pinewoods are a rare and unique habitat. An echo of the boreal forests that encircle the arctic, fragments of the original woods now occur at only 84 sites in Scotland, covering an area of about 18,000 hectares. Home to wildlife like capercaillie, crossbill and pine marten, the flora is just as spectacular.


© Laurie Campbell

As well as the Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris), birches (Betula sp.), Rowan (Sorbus Sorbus aucuparia) and Juniper (Juniperus communis), ancient Caledonian pinewoods are home to some of Scotland’s rarest and most beautiful wildflowers. These include orchids such as Creeping Lady’s-tresses (Goodyera repens), pinewood wintergreens like One-flowered Wintergreen (Moneses uniflora) and one of our smallest and most delicate native flowers, Twinflower (Linnaea borealis). The richness and global significance of the Cairngorms pinewoods are one of the reasons the Cairngorms is identified as an Important Plant Area.

Over the last two decades, there has been welcome enthusiasm for revitalising Scotland’s Old Caledonian pinewoods. Management has focused on the regeneration of pine trees within the few remaining natural woods and creating ‘new native woodlands’, but with relatively little attention being paid to the wider plant community of these woods, especially the characteristic pinewood ground flora. Sadly many of these have suffered declines over the last century.

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

Our goals:

  • Provide advice, and demonstrate plant conservation management techniques, to 80 land managers covering at least 65,000 hectares.
  • Develop a new network of volunteers to regularly monitor sites where rare and threatened plants grow, enabling any changes in management to be made.
  • Train mountain leaders, park rangers and volunteer ambassadors to develop their knowledge of mountain flora, environments and folklore so they in turn can enthuse visitors.
  • Provide a range of plant identification keys and self-led walk guides so people can discover the wild plants of the Cairngorms.