Ten years ago, one solitary example of a rare alpine plant graced a Scottish munro.
Today, the Highland Saxifrage is still one of the most threatened plant species, but a conservation body is celebrating after 12 of the plants were found on the slopes of the 1,214m (3,983ft) Ben Lawers in Perth and Kinross.
The National Trust for Scotland began a reintroduction programme for the plant, which is adapted to grow in harsh, arctic conditions. In the 1960s, Ben Lawers had about 25 individual plants, but its population of the species, Saxifraga rivularis, due in part to illegal collecting, shrank to near extinction.
In 1998, seeds were taken, under special licence, from the NTS’s Glencoe estate to reintroduce on the mountain. The Highland Saxifrage grows in about 20 locations across Scotland.
Property manager David Mardon said: “For more than twenty years, there was a real threat that Highland Saxifrage would die out from Ben Lawers forever. This would be very sad as the mountain is internationally renowned for its rich and diverse range of alpine plantlife.
“We decided that we must act to conserve this fragile and rare plant for future generations. We are very pleased to see the cultivated plants establishing themselves on the hillside and even producing offspring.
“We hope this means that the slopes of Ben Lawers will continue to be decorated by the small white blossoms of the Highland Saxifrage each springtime for decades to come.”
It would be a great shame to see all that effort go to waste, so if you’re tramping up the ben, watch where you’re putting your feet.
The conservation work on Ben Lawers was part funded by Scottish Natural Heritage.