Jan 2013. Work is underway to remove exotic conifers from an important Twinflower site on the Balmoral Estate, Deeside.
The site, situated in an old Scots Pine plantation near Ballater, contains several large and genetically diverse Twinflower patches comprising a significant population for this species in the Scottish context. In past decades, Norway Spruce and Western Hemlock were planted in woodland close to, and within, the Twinflower site and seedlings from these trees are currently recruiting and spreading in the area containing the Twinflower population.
These exotic conifers have a dense canopy, considerably more so than our native Scots Pine, which blocks out light for plants such as Twinflower in the field layer below, suppressing their growth and flowering - often shading them out completely. Norway Spruce and Western Hemlock are recruiting very successfully from seed here and, if left unchecked, there is a risk that the Twinflower population will disappear altogether under a thicket of these trees.
The Cairngorms Rare Plants Project has been working alongside the Balmoral Estate to develop a management plan to address this imminent threat and secure the long-term future of the Twinflower population at this site. This plan includes the removal of all exotic conifer trees and seedlings, whilst retaining native Scots Pine, from a 1.75 ha target area covering the Twinflower population and a buffer zone beyond it.
Practical action at this site is being undertaken by the Balmoral Estate Ranger Service who removed the smaller exotic conifer seedlings during summer 2012. Now, with some funding from the project, they are moving on to tackle some of the larger trees with assistance from the Estate Forestry Team.