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Caledonian pinewood

What are native Caledonian pinewoods?

Native Caledonian pinewoods contain Scots pine and a range of other trees, including junipers, birches, willows, rowan and, in some areas, aspens. Many of the oldest trees in Scotland are found in native pinewoods. Trees over 200 years old are known as 'grannies', but they are young compared to one veteran tree in a remote part of Glen Loyne that was found to be over 550 years old.

Native Caledonian pinewoods are more than just trees. They are home to a wide range of species that are found in similar habitat in Scandinavia and other parts of northern Europe and Russia.

Native pinewoods have also provided a wide range of products that were used in everyday life in rural Scotland. Timber was used to build houses; berries, fungi and animals living in the pinewood provided food; and fir-candles were cut from the heart of old trees to provide early lighting. More recently, native pinewoods provided timber during the First and Second World Wars when imports to Britain were interrupted.

How much native Caledonian pinewood is there in Britain?

After the last Ice Age, native pinewoods covered thousands of square kilometres in the Scottish Highlands. Today, native Caledonian pinewoods are found at 84 sites in the north and west of Scotland, covering around 180 square kilometres.

What species live in native Caledonian pinewoods?

Native Caledonian pinewoods provide habitat for a wide range of specialised boreal species. Plants include blaeberry (bilberry), creeping ladies tresses, twinflower, one-flowered and serrated wintergreen. They are specialist mosses, such as the ostrich plume moss, and a rare group of fungi known as tooth fungi.

A wide range of mammals include key species such as the red deer, specialist feeders on pine trees and pinewood plants such as the red squirrel, and rarer species such as the pine marten and wild cat.

Bird species include the capercaille and crested tits that have restricted ranges based in the native Caledonian pinewoods. Crossbills, including the large billed parrot crossbill and the Scottish crossbill that is found only in north and eastern Scotland, are specialist feeders in conifers and native pinewoods. And other pinewood specialists such as the osprey and goldeneye can be found where there is water.

Most of Britain's invertebrate fauna are found in the native Caledonian pinewoods. They range from micro species living under bark to the spectacular Timberman, a longhorn beetle with antennae more than 10 cm across. Native pinewoods support good populations of nationally rare dragonfly, up to 7 species of wood ant, and a range of butterfly species including green hairstreak, Scotch Argus and several fritillary species.

What are the threats to native Caledonian pinewoods?

The native Caledonian pinewoods are now well protected, but threats remain from fire and overgrazing.

How we manage our woods

The Forestry Commission is involved in the management of 24 native pinewoods. Each has a management plan that aims to restore and expand the native pinewood. This includes removing non-native trees, encouraging regeneration through management of grazing animals, and in some places planting young native trees.
In some of the larger native Caledonian pinewoods, interpretation trails described the history and wildlife of the area.