Spring in the Caledonian Pinewoods

The burn is unusually low after weeks of dry weather

I have started back at my summer seasonal post as Forest Ranger at Glenmore, near Loch Morlich, This is a wonderful place to work as I enjoy lovely walks through the Caledonian Pinewoods every weekend and share the wildlife with the visitors.

Following the past two weeks of warm, sunny days, the buds on the trees were bursting and the early spring flowers blooming.

The Scots pines are just starting to flowers and in a week or two everything will be soon take on a layer of yellow dust as the pollen is dispersed by wind or heavy rain.

Male and female flowers occur on the same tree. They appear in May with the females on the tips of the higher and more exposed branches and the males clustered together, often en masse, on the branches just below. Pollination is by wind, and fertilised female flowers take two years to become a fully-grown cone.

Scots Pine male flowersScots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) male flowers

Scots Pine female flower (red) on the tip of a budScots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) female flowers (red) on the tip of a bud with a one year old cone

At any given time it is possible to see two sets of cones on a tree: the younger ones, which have been fertilised within the last year, and the ripe, or near ripe cones which will soon release their seeds.

One of the native broadleaf trees that is in flower is the Goat Willow (Salix caprea), also known as pussy willow. This is the commonest of our willows, growing almost anywhere. All willows are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers occur on separate plants. The male catkins mature yellow at pollen release; the female catkins mature pale green.

Male catkins Goat Willow (Salix caprea)Male catkins Goat Willow (Salix caprea)

IMG_3093Goat Willow (Salix caprea) female catkins

On the ground under the Scots Pines and silver birch the delicate Wood sorrel flowers are blooming. The leaves of this plant are edible and provide a sharp acidic taste. The plant protects its nectar and pollen from damaging weather conditions, and as light levels fall as evening approaches or rain is imminent, the flowers close tightly shut, opening again only when the light improves. The thin, heart-shaped leaflets also close and droop beside the stem.

IMG_2674aWood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella)

Around the edges of the trees and in the open spaces, the bracken fiddle heads are unfurling and looking like all sort of alien wee creatures!

Alien life in the undergrowth?Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum)

Alongside the burn that flows into Loch Morlich the young silver birch are all looking green and fresh.

Young birch by the burn

8 comments on “Spring in the Caledonian Pinewoods

  1. Really interesting post – I love Scots pine and your close-up photos were really good. Were the forests up your way affected by the wildfires? You are a lucky woman, working up at Glenmore! I’ve done a number of courses up at the lodge and it’s a great place to be.

  2. I work at the camp site about 20 mins walk from the lodge. We’ve been very lucky and had no fires in the area, but we had a discussion about procedure in case we ever have to do a mass evacuation of the site (up to ~800 people in the middle of summer) because of forest fire.

  3. Fascinating blog and superb photos of a wonderful forest area. I tend to forget that pine trees also flower and are sensational when they do. I should take time explore the forests in the spring rather than just climbing the mountains in the winter

    All adding to my botanical knowledge as well. My mate who writes his own blog at Beating the Bounds is also keen on on his flora and fauna so hopefully some of this stuff will embed in my brain and make me a more informed walker!

  4. Wow, Sheila, you just answered a question I’ve had as I walk through places with pine trees. I wondered what the red blooms were on the branches. Now I know!

  5. Thanks Mark. I, too, think I have a superb job! It’s only a short seasonal post, but fun while it lasts!

    Andy, I think most people don’t *see* trees, but regard them as part of the backdrop to the rest of the more showy natural world.

    Lael, soon I’ll be questioned at work about the ‘yellow dust’ ie the pollen from the pines. Each year I get several customers asking what it is, and when they see it floating on the surface of the loch, if it is a pollutant of some sort. It’s nice to reassure them it’s not!

  6. Pingback: Early summer in the Caledonian Pinewoods | Rambling on…

  7. We have a few scots pines in the woods around home. I shall be on the look out now for these flowers – except them to crop up in a report soon!

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