The Alpine Blue-sowthistle

In October 2021, the Alpine blue-sowthistle was reintroduced to Glen Lochay by Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Dr. Aline Finger (RBGE) takes up the story below.

The alpine blue-sowthistle (Cicerbita alpina) is one of our rarest flowers. In Britain it survives on only four very small ledges in the Cairngorms National Park, yet on the Alps and in Scandinavia it can be found in woodland and meadows. For generations the species has been stuck on ledges where it escapes grazing pressure from sheep, deer, hare and voles. Due to this long term isolation and the negative genetic implications (loss of genetic diversity and increased inbreeding), this plant has a lowered ability to reproduce and expand from its ledges. Furthermore, populations are at a constant and immediate risk of being lost through landslides or rock falls. Without conservation measures this striking plant could disappear completely from our landscape.

To help the alpine blue-sowthistle recover and be able to create self-sustaining populations in the wild, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has been growing genetically diverse plant material in the nursery over the past 20 years. With the help of Estates Glenlochay, Glenfeshie and Mar Lodge, over 900 plants have been planted back out into new sites which will hopefully secure their future in Scotland. These new sites have been carefully chosen, using information obtained from previous trial translocations. Hopefully, in the next few years the Scottish landscape will be home to many more patches of alpine blue-sowthistle, with their tall, stout stems (up to 1.5m) and blue or mauve flowers.