Upland ecologist Barbara Jones writes about the mountain plants that can be spotted on UK cliffs and what climbers and walkers can do to help protect these sensitive flora...
How often do you see the media writing about mountain plants in the UK? Woodlands, peat bogs, meadows, heaths, yes, but seldom mountain flora. The reason is obvious. Compared to easily accessible meadows showing a riot of colour in summer, mountain plants need dedication and effort. You usually have to slog uphill for what feels like hours, it's often wet above, underfoot or both and when you arrive, what do you see but few bedraggled looking patches, hanging on high on a cliff face, if you are lucky.
However, once you know what to look for and where, the pleasure of finding an uncommon, brightly coloured mountain plant on a high craggy outcrop far outweighs the effort in getting to it, particularly as climbers and mountaineers we are there already!
Many thanks for this article, I remember discussing with Andy Nisbet (at the time a near neighbour) some 20 plus years ago how to best get across the message that climbing unfrozen turf was damaging & could lead to the loss of rare plants. I think the message is better known now, in part thanks to Barbara.
And although I now live in the Alps where many of the British rare plants are common, I still look back to my days working on Ben Lawers where I learnt much of my field botany.
Thanks for this! Enjoyed it
Starry Saxifrage! Wow, what a beautiful plant.
The Spring Gentian is a fantastic sight if you're out in parts of the North Pennines. I've seen them above Teesdale and in the Warcop firing ranges. Also on the Burren in Ireland. Once seen, never forgotten.
Michael Scott's book Mountain flowers is a thing of beauty in its own right. I'd thoroughly recommend it to all mountain lovers (though it's a not a pocket book).
Much as I like Mike's book I prefer the older book of the same title by John Raven & Max Walters, maybe as it's an 'old friend' which helped me a lot when I was a biology student interested in alpine plants. Long out of print, in places out of date, but still available 2nd hand.
Thanks for the heads up!
If you know anyone aged between 16-25 years, or work with this age group yourself, the Field Studies Council currently have a campaign running, giving access to free wildlife guides. https://www.field-studies-council.org/register-for-free-wildlife-guides/
The link should take you to the register page.
Great article - thanks. Note that while less than when unfrozen, climbing frozen vegetation still does some damage. For all the debate over snowed up pure rock climbs - what vegetation there was long gone - scarring/ damaging the holds, perhaps these (and ice climbs) are best from a conservation point of view?
Really interesting article. We were climbing in Ardnamurchan last weekend and walking of the hill we came across lots of flowers in one spot in particular, probably where it is moist. I was so pleased that my 11 year old son was counting how many there were and was interested (and I was pleased that I could identify at least 8 of them ...the others had to get swiped under the carpet
Again there is Hostile Habitats from the SMC. An excellent read.
Thanks for such a lovely piece of writing, I sent it to my botanist friend in California.
You may recall Geraldine & myself from the PGCE at Bangor, happy days carrying the 39 essentials that Barbara demanded we take everywhere.
Great article - thanks