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Caledonian pinewoods

With ancient pines and spectacular mountain scenery the Caledonian pinewoods in the highlands of Scotland were once extensive. These important habitats now cover just 16,000 hectares. Many of the largest remaining sites are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

These woods are also known as Caledonian pinewoods. The species they contain include Scots pine, juniper, birch, willow, rowan and aspen. The woodland canopy is often quite open, with dispersed trees. Some of Scotland's oldest trees grow in these areas where they develop large, spreading crowns. They are also known as 'granny' pines.

These woods are a link to the huge boreal forests of Scandinavia and northern Russia. Their ecology is distinct from the deciduous woods further south, and they grow on infertile soils. Although they do not support a huge diversity of species, they support rare, specialist ones. These include insects that rely on dead or dying wood. They also support dragonflies, species of wood ant, and butterflies including green hairstreak and Scotch argus.

Uncommon plants inhabit the ground layer. These include wintergreens, twinflower, lesser twayblade, and creeping lady’s tresses. Mosses include the ostrich plume moss. Pinewoods further west support a wide range of mosses, liverworts and lichens. The wood hedgehog and other tooth fungi are also found – these have teeth instead of gills on the underside of their caps.

Scottish pinewoods support species which are not found anywhere else. Birds such as capercaillie, crested tit and the endemic Scottish crossbill live in these woods. Red squirrel, pine marten and red deer are also found here.

Native pinewoods have long been a source of timber, fuel and food, valued by local people. Today, the main threat is probably over-grazing by deer. Where deer populations are controlled, new generations of young trees are beginning to develop.