Iain and Ca­role dis­cuss alpines

The Galloway News - - DISTRICT NEWS -

On a cold Jan­uary af­ter­noon, 30 hardy in­di­vid­u­als from Urr Val­ley Gar­den Club gath­ered to hear Drs Iain and Ca­role Bain­bridge on the topic of Alpine Plants of Scot­land.

The au­di­ence learned that an alpine plant is small, tough and ground-hug­ging so as to min­i­mize the ef­fects of wind and wa­ter loss; and that al­though they are gen­er­ally found above the tree line, in scree or alpine turf, in Scot­land they can oc­cur in other habi­tats.

They are found in sub­alpine mead­ows just below the tree­line, in moun­tain­ous wood­land, in bogs and along rocky shores.

Scot­land’s high rain­fall vari­a­tion from west to east has re­sulted in dif­fer­ent types of alpines across the coun­try.

Plants that can with­stand a range in tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity can out­com­pete low­land-grow­ing plants.

Botanists the­o­rise that nunataks – iso­lated moun­tain peaks that project through ice fields and glaciers – formed refuges for alpines dur­ing the last glacia­tion and so they were able to re­colonise once the ice re­ceded.

Al­though Scot­land does not have as di­verse a range of alpines as the Euro­pean main­land, a sur­pris­ing num­ber can be found and are con­tin­u­ing to be found and many of th­ese tough lit­tle plants are ideally suited for the Scot­tish gar­den.

Among ex­am­ples to be found above the tree­line are pur­ple moun­tain sax­ifrage, ferns (al­though th­ese were de­pleted by Vic­to­rian plant-hunters), pink moss cam­pion and the stem­less, half-an-inch tall loise­leuria procum­bens. The rare Di­a­pen­sia lap­pon­ica is found in only one lo­ca­tion, pos­si­bly two, in Scot­land and was iden­ti­fied as re­cently as 1951.

Grass­land alpines in­clude blue gen­tian ni­valis (snow gen­tian), white dryas oc­topetala and yel­low sax­ifrage aizoides.

High sheep and deer num­bers have re­stricted the spread of alpines in moun­tain mead­ows; there­fore seed/ cut­tings have been col­lected, grown on and planted in pro­tected ar­eas.

The twin­flower was thought to grow mainly in the north. How­ever, it has now been found in the Borders. In bogs and flushes, sax­ifra­gas, white bog­beans, car­niv­o­rous sun­dews and cran­ber­ries can be found.

The Scot­tish primrose, en­demic in Orkney and from Suther­land to Thurso, is an alpine. Ca­role and Iain said peo­ple do not have to travel far to find alpines – they just need to look.

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