Rare wil­low trees on the road to re­cov­ery on es­tate

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - NEWS - BY DANIEL BOAL

An Aberdeen­shire es­tate could hold the key to the sur­vival of in­creas­ingly scarce tree species.

Rare wil­low seedlings have been suc­cess­fully grown by the Na­tional Trust for Scot­land on its Mar Lodge Es­tate. As part of a con­ser­va­tion project, ecol­o­gist Shaila Rao and her col­leagues have been work­ing to bol­ster the pop­u­la­tion of downy and whor­tle-leaved va­ri­eties on the 29,000 hectare es­tate.

Their con­tin­ued ex­is­tence in Scot­land is un­der threat.

Mrs Rao said: “Our aim with this project is to give these rem­nant rare wil­low pop­u­la­tions a boost so they have the abil­ity to re­pro­duce, re­gen­er­ate and ex­pand by them­selves.

“In early sum­mer this year, we vis­ited all the downy and whor­tle-leaved wil­low sites, col­lect­ing cut­tings and seeds from each pop­u­la­tion.

“Trees for Life are now grow­ing the cut­tings for us in their nurs­ery at Dun­dreg­gan, Glen Moris­ton, and will cre­ate a bank of trees for each wil­low species from which seed can be col­lected in the fu­ture.

“This seed will be used for grow­ing on seedlings to plant in a few years.”

Ma r L odge Es­tate cur­rently sup­ports a num­ber of dif­fer­ent wil­low species and is the largest na­ture re­serve in the UK.

Mrs Rao added: “It may be a long way off, but these steps are the first in recre­at­ing the pre­cious mon­tane wood­land habi­tat which has al­most been lost from Scot­land.”

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