Aug 2013. A key aim of the Cairngorms Rare Plants project has been to establish transplant trials for twinflower in an attempt to restore seed production in this threatened pinewood plant. This summer, one year on from planting, some of the first transplants have already set seed!
The first transplants on Strathspey were established at Dell Woods NNR in early autumn 2012. Here, we planted four additional twinflower clones (grown from cuttings collected from other twinflower patches in nearby woodlands) in close proximity to an existing isolated twinflower patch which was setting very little seed.
All of the transplants survived the winter and it was a nice surprise when some of them flowered at the beginning of July this year. Although they didn’t produce a huge number of flowers, monitoring in early August revealed that quite a few of them had set seed. This is exactly the result we were hoping for and it provides an early indication that this technique of planting several twinflower clones together in close proximity can create the conditions required for cross-pollination and seed production.
Each twinflower flower has the potential to produce just a single seed. The seeds are 4-5 mm long and shaped like a rugby ball. The fruits are sticky are dispersed by attaching to the fur or feathers of passing mammals or birds, and can potentially be carried long distances from the parent patch. Most remaining twinflower patches in Scotland produce very few seeds each year severely limiting the opportunities for this species to spread and establish in new areas.
Low seed production is the result of twinflower being confined to small and isolated patches. The vast majority of patches each contain just a single genetic individual (or clone). In order to produce seed, its flowers must cross-pollinate with those of a different, compatible clone. The remaining patches (individual clones) are frequently too far apart for the insect pollinators to travel regularly between them and hence cross-pollination and seed-production rarely occurs in Scotland.
That’s why we’re taking action and establishing translocation trials at sites across the Park to bring these isolated twinflower clones into contact with each other by planting them together in close proximity. If succesful, there will be a case to implement this technique on a wider scale in the future promoting the long-term conservation and recovery of twinflower in Scotland.