Nature Profiles

Flora of Corrie Fee NNR, Scotland


The Rare Willows

Two of the most important plants in Corrie Fee are the rare arctic willow species, Salix lanata and lapponum.  In the NNR, these plants are found in Corrie Sharroch, which neigbours Corrie Fee itself.  They prosper on the damp, shaded rock ledges and steep grassy corrie slopes, thanks to a deer exclosure fence.

Salix lanata (Woolly Willow)


Corrie Fee is the classic British site for this very rare willow.  There are more plants in Corrie Sharroch than at any other site in Britain, although it is by no means common here.  It only grows high up on steep rocky ledges above 700m or so. 

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh are replanting lower parts of the site, where the plant ought to occur, now that the deer fence has been erected.  Browsing by the animals in the past has led to the loss of many plants.




Salix lapponum (Downy Willow)


Salix lapponum habitat in Corrie Sharroch

The second classic Arctic willow species in Corrie Fee, Downy Willow is a taller plant, sometimes more like a miniature tree than a stunted shrub in habit.  The leaves are a similar colour to S. lanata, but distinctly lanceolate, rather than rounded. 

It is a more widespread species than Woolly Willow, but in Britain is still almost entirely restricted to the Scottish Highlands.




Alpine Flora

Saussurea alpina (Alpine Saw-wort)


In Britain, this species is largely restricted to the uplands of Scotland, although there are scattered colonies in the Lake District and north-west Wales, as well as the west of Ireland.



Sedum rosea (Roseroot)


An unmistakable plant of the mountains, this species is common in all upland areas of northern Britain.  It also frequents coastal cliffs in Scotland and western Ireland. 

Globally it is a common boreal species with a circumpolar distribution.



Athyrium distentifolium (Alpine Lady Fern)


This rare fern is restricted to high elevations in the Scottish mountains.  It is distinguished from the common A. filix-femina by the shape of the sori - they are J-shaped in the 'standard' Lady Fern, and round in this rare alpine species. 

In Corrie Sharroch it is easily found and grows in large colonies in the cool shade of boulders and block scree.

Round sori of A. distentifolium



Oxytropis campestris (Yellow Oxytropis)


One of the classic relict alpine plants for which Corrie Fee is famous, this little plant took some finding, and I would never have known where to look without a tip-off from thehelpful ranger at the Visitor Centre. 

Although a common boreal species world-wide, especially in North America, this species is extremely rare in Britain, with only five sites indicated on the BSBI database, all in Scotland.




Polystichum lonchitis (Holly Fern)


Holly Fern is a rare arctic-montane fern of wet, base-rich habitats. 

It is widespread in the Scottish mountains, but very rare in England and Wales.

Sori of P.lonchitis



Carex bigelowii (Stiff Sedge)


Rhizomes and roots of C.bigelowii

In the Scottish mountains this is a very common sedge, where it often dominates the short turf on higher slopes.  Its distinctive curled short leaves and straight flower spike help to idenitfy it. 

The bulk of its British distribution is in Scotland, although it can also be found in the Lake District, Cumbrian Fells, North Wales and western Ireland.

Flower spike



Other Flora

Pinguicula vulgaris (Common Butterwort)


The butterworts are carnivorous bog plants which trap insects with their sticky pallid leaves. 

There are two other species, one introduced, but P.vulgaris lives up to its name being by far the most common, although it is rare in southern Britain. 

Even when not adorned with its attractive violet flowers, the plant is easily found by its distinctive leaves, which look like pale green starfish, often on bare peat.



Cirsium heterophyllum (Melancholy Thistle)


This tall, attractive spineless thistle is a plant of northern Britain, where it is common in a variety of habitats.  There are few occurrences south of the Peak District.



Parnassia palustris (Grass of Parnassus)


This attractive plant of moist alkaline habitats is no grass at all, being a member of the Saxifrage family! 

It is primarily a plant of northerly distribution, although it does occur further south in the Peak District and East Anglian fens.



Vaccinium uliginosum (Bog Bilberry)


Although similar to Bilberry (V. myrtillus), Bog Bilberry is easily distinguished whether in flower or not. 

V. uliginosum has untoothed, blunt, bluish-green leaves with a conspicuous vein network (not visible in this photo).  Twigs are also round in cross-section, unlike the four-angled stems of Bilberry. 

Being a boreal species, Bog Bilberry is very scarce in southern Britain, with two disjunct occurrences on Exmoor and in the Peak District.  It is more frequent in the northern Pennines and Southern Uplands, and is frequent and widespread in the Scottish Highlands and on the Orkney Islands. 

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the ID.



Empetrum nigrum (Crowberry)


A common upland shrub absent from most of southern and south-eastern England, this is one of the dominant plants on upland hill slopes in Corrie Fee.  In the mountains it often exists as a hermaphroditic form.  The berries look tasty, but aren't edible.



Coeloglossum viride (Frog Orchid)


Frog Orchid is an adaptable orchid, just as much at home in the cold, grassy corries of the Scottish Highlands (always on calcareous rock) as in the warm chalk downlands of southern England.  

I've described this species in more detail in the Flora of Hampshire section of the site.



Asplenium viride (Green Spleenwort)


A widespread fern of calcareous upland habitats, this fern is easily recognised by its green rachises (frond stalks) and small, scalloped pinnae ('leaves'). 

Although widespread, it is often rather local in occurrence, and less common than other upland ferns.  Its small size and preference for cool, shady, rock crevice habitats also means it goes unnoticed. 

Worldwide it is a wide-ranging species, being found throughout upland areas of Europe, northern Asia and northern North America. 

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the ID.

Sori of A.viride



Carex pulicaris (Flea Sedge)


One of the more common grassland sedges, Flea Sedge is so-named for the way that the flower spikes jump outwards from the stem when touched. 

It is a common species in western and northern Britain, and widespread but more scattered in the remainder of England. 

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the ID.



Carex panicea (Carnation Sedge)


Another common sedge of open calcareous habitats.  It's a poor photo, so for more description take a look at the better photos on the Flora of Ben Lawers NNR page

Thanks to Fred Rumsey for the ID.