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Rare plant saved on Ben Lawers

The Last Highland saxifrage on Ben Lawers

The Last Highland saxifrage on Ben Lawers

A rare alpine plant that was in danger of disappearing from the slopes of Ben Lawers forever has been saved after conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland stepped in.

In 1998, there was only one surviving highland saxifrage on the slopes of the Central Highlands highest mountain. This summer, a survey found 12 plants thriving on the hillside, after a Trust programme to re-establish the plant.

Highland saxifrage (Saxifraga rivularis) is a nationally rare species adapted to grow in some of the harshest arctic alpine conditions. In Scotland, it is found in about 20 mountain locations, including Ben Lawers. In the sixties there were around 25 individual plants there but the population has been declining, due, in part, to illegal plant collecting.

Concerned conservationists at the National Trust for Scotland decided to act to stop the alpine plant from becoming extinct at Ben Lawers. In 1998, seeds taken under special licence from saxifrage plants at the Trust’s Glencoe property were used to cultivate new plants for the Stirlingshire site.

Property Manager David Mardon said:

For more than twenty years, there was a real threat that highland saxifrage would die out from Ben Lawers forever. This would be very sad as the mountain is internationally renowned for its rich and diverse range of alpine plantlife.

We decided that we must act to conserve this fragile and rare plant for future generations. We are very pleased to see the cultivated plants establishing themselves on the hillside and even producing offspring. We hope this means that the slopes of Ben Lawers will continue to be decorated by the small white blossoms of the highland saxifrage each springtime, for decades to come.

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