June 2013. In mid-June I made a special trip to Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve, near Golspie in Sutherland, to visit and admire the one-flowered wintergreen that grows in the pinewoods there. I certainly wasn’t disappointed!
This delicate little plant is surely the most beautiful of the characteristic pinewood herbs. It is also the rarest being known from fewer than 20 sites in the UK, all of them in Scotland. Most populations are desperately small with few reaching more than 500 rosettes in size. However, the pinewoods near Loch Fleet support the largest known UK population with quite possibly more one-flowered wintergreen contained within this one site than all of the other Scottish populations combined.
The Cairngorms National Park is home to only five sites for one-flowered wintergreen and all of them are found on Strathspey. Despite much time spent over the past three field seasons searching through pinewoods for twinflower, the discovery of a new site for one-flowered wintergreen has so far eluded me! With such tiny little leaves, only 1 to 2 cm long, and a flowering spike standing not more that 10 cm tall, it certainly wouldn’t be difficult to overlook this plant.
One-flowered wintergreen has been selected as a priority in the new Cairngorms Nature Action Plan, launched in May 2013, which will see the delivery of special conservation action for this species in the Cairngorms National Park over the next five years.