Scientists have discovered rare 'fire' lichen growing on the stumps of trees destroyed by flames in the Scottish Highlands during World War II.


The Carbonicola anthracophila was discovered by scientists surveying Loch Arkaig Pine Forest near Spean Bridge. The lichen only grows on charred conifer trees and has been recorded at just three other locations in the UK: Glen Affric, Glen Quoich and Glen Strathfarrar.

British Commandos and Allied Special Forces including the Free French trained at Loch Arkaig during WWII. During exercises with live ammunition in 1942 forest fire raged across the hillside. Scots pines cooked in their own resin were preserved and still stand like ghost trees across the hillside.

Seventy-seven years on the 'fire' lichen is a living legacy of that blaze. 

Woodland Trust Scotland bought Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in partnership with local group Arkaig Community Forest at the end of 2016, with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The lichen survey was commissioned by experts Andy Acton and Brian Coppins to help inform long-term conservation management at the site.  

The four-day survey found around 150 different species. In their report the experts said they had only scratched the surface of what the forest might hold. 

The Carbonicola anthracophila was found on just two tree stumps.

Andy Acton said: “It was the first time I had seen this particular species so it was particularly exciting for me, but Brian referred to it as a ‘mega tick’ so he was clearly excited too.  Brian found it first then the hunt was on for more, and I went on to find it on another stump.”

Woodland Trust Scotland has partnered with Arkaig Community Forest, a local community-based charity which shares our ambitious, far reaching and long-term goals for the 1,027-hectare site. Together we will carefully and sensitively restore native woodland habitats across the entire forest and demonstrate the ecological, social and economic value of ancient woodland restoration. In particular, we aim to support the remote community living around the forest to benefit from active sustainable forest management activities such as wood fuel production, eco-tourism and adding value to timber. 

The forest is home to wild boar, sea eagles, golden eagles, ospreys, pine martens and deer amongst many other species.

A live osprey nest camera supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery currently streams online the antics of resident pair Louis and Aila. 

Steeped in history, the area is the ancestral home of Clan Cameron.  A consignment of gold sent from France to help fund the escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie is said to be hidden in the forest.


Notes to editors

For further information contact George Anderson on 07770 700631.

Woodland Trust Scotland is part of the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. The Woodland Trust has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. In 1984, the Trust acquired its first wood in Scotland. Today it owns and cares for some 60 sites covering more than 8,000 hectares across Scotland. Access to its woods is free.