Highlands seed boost for ‘precarious’ Alpine flower

A threatened upland flower is to get a boost to its Lake District population with seeds collected from a Scottish estate.

Mountain avens, a threatened upland flower is to get a boost to its Lake District population with seeds collected from a Scottish estate
Mountain avens, a threatened upland flower is to get a boost to its Lake District population with seeds collected from a Scottish estate

The mountain avens, an alpine plant with eight white petals and a yellow centre, is classed as “vulnerable” to extinction in England and endangered in Wales, but is found more widely in the Highlands.

Seeds from an area looked after by Jahama Highland Estates in the Western Highlands will be collected, propagated and planted on the slopes of Helvellyn, the third highest mountain in the Lake District, managed by the John Muir Trust.

The project, which also involves public bodies Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England, aims to boost the fortunes of the mountain avens on Helvellyn, one of the few places further south it has a marginal foothold.

The plant, which grows in cold, sunny locations, has been found on lime-rich ridges at a height of 850 metres (2,800ft) on Beinn Na Socaich, a mountain in the Grey Corries near Fort William.

The area forms part of the 114,000-acre Jahama Highland Estates, which is part of the GFG Alliance of assets and businesses owned by industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, and neighbours land at Ben Nevis managed by the John Muir Trust.

Julia Stoddart, chief operating officer at Jahama Highland Estates, said: “It’s a privilege to have such a rich range of plants and wildlife on the estate and we take our management responsibilities as stewards of the landscape seriously.

“We’re delighted to help with this project, which we hope will strengthen the precarious populations of mountain avens across the border in England.”While rare in Britain, mountain avens are widely found elsewhere in the world, and are the national flower of Iceland and emblem of Canada’s Northwest Territories.

The project faces the challenge of timing the collection of wind-dispersed seeds in the remote Highland location, but it is hoped they can be gathered to grow plants which will be planted out on Helvellyn to help the species spread naturally again.

It is part of a wider project to support vulnerable alpine Arctic plants in the Lake District whose populations have reduced over time.

These include the downy willow, which was reduced to 23 isolated female shrubs on the Helvellyn crags, but has been boosted by plants propagated from a population in Galloway, and the alpine cinquefoil.

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