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Plant Life in the Scottish Highlands

Far to the North of England, beyond the smoke and noise of the great cities, lies that  untamed wilderness of mountains, moorland and bog known as the Scottish Highlands.

Cold, bleak and desolate at most seasons of the year, its lonely heights swept by fierce gales and driving rain or covered in a deep mantle of snow, this wild area has a charm and grandeur of its own.  One must know it intimately to appreciate its magnificence to the full.  One must have seen the fresh glory of the spring and smelt the sweet bird cherry on the gentle breeze, its pale flowers starred against the bright green leaves of the graceful birches; one must have seen the hills adorned in the rich purple of the heather with the brown grouse winging their way down the steep hillsides, one must have seen the mountains mantled in snow to produce a scene equal to any in Europe for sheer grandeur and beauty.

There are vast wildernesses of bog and moorland, where the plaintive cry of the curlew, the crake of the grouse, the eternal swish of the wind through the lithe heather stems and the babble of the wild mountain torrents alone break the silence.

Mountains whose grand peaks are almost perpetually hidden in the clouds which move across them like an army of ghosts.  Mountains where lie hidden lochs and the snow remains throughout the long year.  Mountains whose sides are gashed with deep corries, whose summits are devoid of life, shattered monuments of a titanic past.

A land of strange beauty, of silver lochs hidden in whispering pine forests, or roaring torrents and dashing waterfalls, of half-forgotten Atlantic bays where the tide surges tumultuously, eternally; a land of romance where Nature rules supreme.

Here are to be found pine forests as ancient as any in Europe.  Vast areas of desolate, untamed wilderness, containing the grandest mountains, the wildest lakes, the deepest defiles and most picturesque areas of forest in these islands.  A land as untamed as when it left the womb of Nature.

This, then, is Highland Scotland, and indeed it would be difficult to imagine more varied charm and enchantment than the region can boast.

I will endeavour in the ensuing chapters to portray the beauties of this lovely country with special reference to its flowering plants and the conditions which influence their growth.

It must be remembered that the whole region was highly modified by the Ice Ages and that the flora is akin to that of Scandinavia.  Many species found are peculiar to the region and many are highly interesting from a scientific, as well as an aesthetic, point of view.

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