Dundreggan tree nursery
Many of the trees we plant are grown at our own tree nursery based at Dundreggan. We want all our planted trees to have the best possible start in life, so using seed from trees that grow locally to Dundreggan and Glen Affric is a key part of our strategy. To do this we have established a centre of excellence for growing native trees and shrubs in Scotland. We concentrate on the rare or hard to grow species that more commercial tree nurseries can’t supply. Trees like local provenance woolly willow and downy willow which help us create new mountain woodlands at Dundreggan and, in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland, at Glen Affric and elsewhere. We also specialise in growing aspen and are currently researching how to create a consistent supply of seed for this rare forest tree. The nursery is a hive of activity during the spring, summer and autumn, where volunteer groups help us through the whole life cycle of our trees – from seed collection to final planting.
In Scotland, aspen trees rarely flower or set seed, this along with other pressures on our native woodlands means that aspen stands are now a rare site in Scotland. We have explored and developed multiple ways to encourage aspen growth, the full details on these methods can be found here.
One of our most promising and ongoing techniques has been developed in conjunction with the charity Coille Alba, which leads the Aspen 2020 Project. We are carrying out innovative root grafting experiments. We graft material from the top of mature aspen trees onto young trees, to encourage them to flower when mature. We have had a great success rate of 84% with this, and hope to be able to contribute to a ‘seed orchard’ or ‘gene bank’, from which propagated trees will be abundant and inexpensive, thereby dramatically increasing the availability of young aspen for native woodland planting schemes.
As you walk through Scottish woodlands onto the open moorlands above, you will likely pass an abrupt boundary between trees and open ground. In a natural setting, trees gradually phase-out through the treeline, becoming stunted and twisted due to the extreme conditions. In the mountain areas of Scotland this is where you may find specialist montane trees. These wee trees are not easy to come by and neither are their seeds or cuttings, as such very little montane habitat survives in good condition in Scotland.
Our tree nursery specialises in growing these trees and making them available for planting schemes. At Dundreggan we are very lucky to have a large amount of dwarf birch, and as some of these plants have been fenced to exclude browsing by deer, they have been able to grow and produce seed. This seed has germinated well in the nursery and we grow over 10,000 dwarf birch a year.
Willow species are trickier to come by, trips further afield are required to collect materials. Many of the remaining willow communities are very small and fragmented and the seed may not be viable. It has to be collected at exactly the right time and sown immediately as seed will only live for a few days.
We have a range of species such as dark-leaved willow, tea-leaved willow, downy willow, whortle-leaved willow, as well as the much more common eared willow and the rarest one of all – the woolly willow. We will continue to developing our expertise and grow more of these vitally important and rare trees.