Native Rare Plant Thriving in the Cairngorms

A rare, iconic plant of the Caledonian pine forest, found only in a handful of woodlands in the Highlands of Scotland is thriving, thanks to the efforts of Plantlife Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland.


Twinflower. © Laurie Campbell

Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) has two, delicate pink bell-like flowers and is one of our smallest native flowers; it has declined across the country due to the loss of Caledonian pine forest. National Trust for Scotland’s Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve near Braemar has long been a stronghold for the plant in Scotland, and now a new project will see it flourishing there for centuries to come.

Plantlife Scotland have partnered up with National Trust Scotland, and a band of local volunteers, to help twinflower flourish. We have been working closely together to monitor known sites for the plant, discover new populations and find suitable areas for future translocations in the vast pinewoods of the UK’s largest National Nature Reserve. Local volunteers have ‘adopted’ patches of twinflower, and will monitor their fortunes in the years to come.

These efforts appear to be paying off as a large new population of twinflower has been discovered on the estate.

Bill Bowman, MSP for North East Scotland region, is Species Champion for twinflower and visited Mar Lodge Estate NNR this week to see the flowers flourishing, and meet NTS and Plantlife Scotland staff.

He said “Changes to Scotland’s landscape have destroyed many of the twinflower’s habitats. In an attempt to keep our environment as diverse as possible, NTS are helping take steps to stop that happening to the twinflower. I’m pleased to support them and Plantlife as its species champion. It was great to see again the twinflower in a natural habitat and realise how its health is an indicator of the health of the forest around it.”


Bill Bowman MSP with Alistair Whyte

The Species Champion initiative asks Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to lend political support to the protection of Scotland’s threatened wildlife by becoming ‘Species Champions’. Under the Species Champion project, over 40 iconic and threatened Scottish species have been ‘adopted’ by Members of Parliament. The initiative is run by Scottish Environment Link on behalf of environmental NGOS across the country.

Alistair Whyte, Head of Plantlife Scotland, said “Plantlife have been working with National Trust for Scotland to conserve twinflower in the Cairngorms as part of our Cairngorms Wild Plants project, to try and halt the decline of this nationally important species, and it’s great to see the results of our hard work pay off. The Trust’s Mar Lodge Estate is a fantastic example of how a Highland estate can be managed for biodiversity. We are thrilled that Bill is championing one of the Cairngorms’ best loved and most threatened wildflowers”.

Shaila Rao, National Trust for Scotland ecologist, said “This is an exciting time for twinflower at Mar Lodge Estate. We have records of the plant from here going back to the nineteenth century. With the help of Plantlife and local volunteers we will see it flourishing for centuries to come. This is just one example of the work we do at the National Trust for Scotland to protect Scotland’s natural and national treasures for everyone.”

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