July 2011. Six volunteers and project officer Andy Scobie descended upon Upper Port Wood, near Grantown-on-Spey, one morning this month to conduct a detailed search for rare pinewood plants.
Sites for Twinflower, Intermediate Wintergreen and Common Wintergreen had already been recorded from the wood and the promising looking habitat invited further investigation. After a brief tour of the known sites, and some ID refresher training, everyone lined themselves out and walked back and forth across the wood keeping a close eye on the ground, with the instruction to shout out loud upon discovery of anything interesting.
It wasn’t long before the first excited call came, announcing the discovery of a patch of Common Wintergreen which was flowering spectacularly. A quick GPS reading was taken and in went a marker cane then the line moved on. Another call soon came, then another and another, with the discovery of more Common Wintergreen and the rarer Intermediate Wintergreen. Then on the final walk through the wood, Stewart Taylor came up with the find of the day – a new twinflower patch! This was a very successful morning with a long list of plant sites recorded after searching only a small portion of the wood.
Now monitoring data can be collected on the location, size and extent of each new population and the information passed onto Seafield Estates, owners of Upper Port Wood, who are planning to thin the wood this winter. With this information in hand, steps can be taken to minimise damage to key populations of these plants during thinning operations. This baseline data will also enable monitoring of any long-term changes in the populations as a result of the thinning work.
Upper Port Wood is just one example of a site containing potentially suitable habitat for rare pinewood plants such as Twinflower and Intermediate Wintergreen. There are many, many more sites like this all over the Cairngorms National Park which are crying out for someone to go and explore them. If you would like some information on potential sites to search in your local area, where you might just make an exciting discovery, please get in contact. ID training can also be provided so don’t be put off if you don’t know your Common from your Intermediate Wintergreen!