Pretty little white one-flowered wintergreen carpets the floor of an olde Caledonian Pinewood

Planting the Caledonian Pinewood

Pretty little white one-flowered wintergreen carpets the floor of an olde Caledonian Pinewood

Planting the Caledonian Pinewood

Across Scotland, tree planting projects are helping to return forests to the empty glens and hillsides of the Highlands. Dedicated organisations are planting native trees to restore forests they are unable to regenerate on their own. Though nature knows best how to look after itself, without these projects, Scotland’s woodlands would continue to decline and, with it, the wildlife that depends on it.

1. A Diversity of Trees

2. A Suitable Landscape

3. Assisting Nature

4. The Value of Planting Trees

Across Scotland, tree planting projects are helping to return forests to the empty glens and hillsides of the Highlands. Dedicated organisations are planting native trees to restore forests they are unable to regenerate on their own. Though nature knows best how to look after itself, without these projects, Scotland’s woodlands would continue to decline and, with it, the wildlife that depends on it.

1. A Diversity of Trees

2. A Suitable Landscape

3. Assisting Nature

4. The Value of Planting Trees

A Diversity of Trees

Scotland’s Caledonian pinewoods are home to majestic Scots pine and colourful downy and silver birch. Efforts to restore this woodland across Scotland plant predominantly pine and then birch, but Caledonian woodland would have contained a diversity of other broadleaf species as well. Although the birches are the most numerous, often forming large stands amongst the pines, other species, like hawthorn, holly, hazel, rowan, willows, alder, oak, and aspen would have existed as scattered individuals or small groups, bringing diversity to the pinewoods. Juniper, another conifer species, is rare here, but an important part of the woodland habitat. It provides dense cover for nesting birds and food for a variety of species.

Bags of saplings of a variety of spaces lie waiting among the blooming heather to be planted

A Diversity of Trees

Scotland’s Caledonian pinewoods are home to majestic Scots pine and colourful downy and silver birch. Efforts to restore this woodland across Scotland plant predominantly pine and then birch, but Caledonian woodland would have contained a diversity of other broadleaf species as well. Although the birches are the most numerous, often forming large stands amongst the pines, other species, like hawthorn, holly, hazel, rowan, willows, alder, oak, and aspen would have existed as scattered individuals or small groups, bringing diversity to the pinewoods. Juniper, another conifer species, is rare here, but an important part of the woodland habitat. It provides dense cover for nesting birds and food for a variety of species.

Bags of saplings of a variety of spaces lie waiting among the blooming heather to be planted

Suitable Landscapes

Trees are typically planted as young saplings, grown in nurseries where they are protected and cared for. When they are strong enough they are transplanted to the field. But, to ensure the highest chances of survival, these young saplings need the right conditions. The Scottish Highlands are a harsh environment for plants and wildlife, so it’s vital that any efforts to restore woodlands to this landscape considers where each species will thrive before planting. Where each species should be planted will depend on climate, rainfall, soil type and more. For example, certain species, like alder and aspen, thrive in damp, cool areas like the banks of rivers, known as the riparian zone. Others, like silver birch, prefer light, dry soils.

Small juniper trees planted on a knoll at the bottom of a glen
Small juniper trees planted on a knoll at the bottom of a glen

Suitable Landscapes

Trees are typically planted as young saplings, grown in nurseries where they are protected and cared for. When they are strong enough they are transplanted to the field. But, to ensure the highest chances of survival, these young saplings need the right conditions. The Scottish Highlands are a harsh environment for plants and wildlife, so it’s vital that any efforts to restore woodlands to this landscape considers where each species will thrive before planting. Where each species should be planted will depend on climate, rainfall, soil type and more. For example, certain species, like alder and aspen, thrive in damp, cool areas like the banks of rivers, known as the riparian zone. Others, like silver birch, prefer light, dry soils.

Assisting Nature

Woodlands reproduce and move across the landscape naturally by spreading seeds. Assisting the natural regeneration of woodlands is the most natural way to restore forests, but it’s not always possible. For example, where species are absent entirely or they do not produce viable seed, as is the case in many pinewoods where ‘granny’ pines are all that’s left, woodlands would not be able regenerate naturally. In this case tree planting is necessary. To give the trees the best chance of success, the area around the saplings should be cleared of dense vegetation to remove competition for nutrients and sunlight. To prevent competition between the trees themselves, they should be planted at an appropriate density. In the exposed landscape of the Scottish Highlands, the planting density also takes into account the effect of wind exposure, the idea being that, the growing trees will protect each other from the worst of the wind.

A tree planter carries bags of little pine saplings to be planted in the field

Assisting Nature

Woodlands reproduce and move across the landscape naturally by spreading seeds. Assisting the natural regeneration of woodlands is the most natural way to restore forests, but it’s not always possible. For example, where species are absent entirely or they do not produce viable seed, as is the case in many pinewoods where ‘granny’ pines are all that’s left, woodlands would not be able regenerate naturally. In this case tree planting is necessary. To give the trees the best chance of success, the area around the saplings should be cleared of dense vegetation to remove competition for nutrients and sunlight. To prevent competition between the trees themselves, they should be planted at an appropriate density. In the exposed landscape of the Scottish Highlands, the planting density also takes into account the effect of wind exposure, the idea being that, the growing trees will protect each other from the worst of the wind.

A tree planter carries bags of little pine saplings to be planted in the field

The Value of Planting Trees

Planting trees relies on a deep understanding of the ecology of the woodlands and the conditions of the landscape. It’s often expensive and labour intensive, and the chances are that some trees will die. Nevertheless, where natural regeneration is not possible, it provides a lifeline for woodland habitats.

A tree planter plants a pine sapling delicately in the cleared ground
A tree planter plants a pine sapling delicately in the cleared ground

The Value of Planting Trees

Planting trees relies on a deep understanding of the ecology of the woodlands and the conditions of the landscape. It’s often expensive and labour intensive, and the chances are that some trees will die. Nevertheless, where natural regeneration is not possible, it provides a lifeline for woodland habitats.

Sources & further reading

✅ for peer reviewed research

      1. 1. Diversifying native pinewoods using artificial regeneration"  

        TK Oglivy, CJ Legg and JW Humphrey 2006 - Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research - Vol 79, Issue 3 - academic.oup.com ✅

        1. 2.“Ecology and management of native pinewoods: overview of special issue– JW Humphrey. 2006 – Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research - Vol 79, Issue 3 - academic.oup.com ✅
      2.  
      3. 3. “Why Protecting Scotland's Natural World is Important to Mossy Earth - mossy.earth

✅ for peer reviewed research

      1. 1. Diversifying native pinewoods using artificial regeneration"  

        TK Oglivy, CJ Legg and JW Humphrey 2006 - Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research - Vol 79, Issue 3 - academic.oup.com ✅

        1. 2.“Ecology and management of native pinewoods: overview of special issue– JW Humphrey. 2006 – Forestry: An International Journal of Forest Research - Vol 79, Issue 3 - academic.oup.com ✅
      2.  
      3. 3. “Why Protecting Scotland's Natural World is Important to Mossy Earth - mossy.earth