News

Rare woolly willows planted in Corrie Fee
14/08/2009
Rare woolly willows should thrive in Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve (NNR) in the years to come, after over 800 young montane willow shrubs were planted this week by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) staff and volunteers.

Corrie Fee NNR hosts the largest remaining population of montane willow scrub in the UK. But before the planting this week, the pockets of willow scrub growing on rock ledges and steep corrie sides were small and isolated. They were growing and seeding, but not reproducing and regenerating.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) found the reserve’s montane willows, which include woolly willows, downy willows and dark-leaved willows, to be in unfavourable condition in 2006, mainly due to a lack of regeneration. In 2007 and 2008, RBGE collected willow seeds and cuttings from Corrie Sharroch, where most of the willows in Corrie Fee grow, as part of their Scottish Plants Project. Back at the Botanic Gardens, these were grown into seedlings and planted out in Corrie Sharroch this week.

Also known as sub-arctic willow, these willows are highly endangered. In the UK, the woolly willows are in only 12 locations in Scotland. Only six of these areas have more than 100 plants. Like all willows, woolly willows grow as separate male and female plants. They can’t reproduce unless the two sexes grow within about 50 metres of each other to allow for effective pollination.

Dr. Suki Fleming, SNH area officer, said:
“This is crucial work to stop the loss of these rare willows. The nature reserve is a special place already, and protecting and encouraging the growth of these willows will make it even more special and unique. It’s the amazing variety of biodiversity of Scotland which gives it such beauty, and these willows are a big part of that at Corrie Fee.”

RBGE Conservation Officer Heather McHaffie commented:
"The woolly willow is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species and is one of those selected for additional support through the government and SNH's Species Action Framework. As such, we see it as an important objective for RBGE to work in partnership with SNH, using our horticultural expertise to propagate these young plants. Horticultural staff from RBGE also joined with SNH and other volunteers in the actual planting”.

Corrie Fee NNR is one of the best sites in Britain for montane flora, particularly montane willow scrub and other rare arctic-alpine plants and upland birds. Nationally scarce plants such as purple coltsfoot, Oblong woodsia and yellow oxytropis can also be found on the reserve and the area is home to important bird populations such as golden eagle and peregrine.

The reserve’s importance is reflected in its national and international designations. It is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Area of Conservation, a Special Protection Area, and a National Scenic Area, and is within the Cairngorms National Park.

ENDS

For more information or to request pictures, contact Vicki Mowat (Thurs-Fri) on 0131 316 2606 or Nancy Fraser (Mon- Wed) on 0141 951 0809 or vicki.mowat@snh.gov.uk or nancy.fraser@snh.gov.uk.

Notes to editors
1. Corrie Fee NNR is located above Glen Doll at the head of Glen Clova in the Angus Glens in the Cairngorms National Park. SNH owns and manages Corrie Fee NNR, which is one of nine NNRs within the national park. For more information, see www.nnr-scotland.org.uk.
2. Scottish Natural Heritage is the government’s advisor on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value and enjoy Scotland’s nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at www.snh.org.uk