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Expansion of hazel in Glen Affric

Practical Results of our Work

Hazel trees occur in the eastern part of Glen Affric, especially between Badger Falls and Dog Falls. A few isolated groups of trees occur further west, as far as the eastern end of Loch Affric, indicating that hazel was formerly more widely distributed in the glen. Although it would naturally be comparatively scarce in the Caledonian Forest, hazel is nonetheless an important tree that supports a special community of lichens and its nuts are a significant food source for small mammals such as wood mice and the red squirrel.

Trees for Life began work to regenerate hazel in Glen Affric in the mid-1990s, and we've protected naturally-occurring seedlings with individual Netlon tree guards, to enable them to grow without being overgrazed by red deer. We also began a programme of hazel propagation at our tree nursery at Plodda Lodge, and the first trees from that were planted out in Glen Affric in May 1997. Those plantings were done just west of some of the last surviving hazel trees on the north shore of Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin, seeking to mimic how the species would spread again naturally in the absence of excessive grazing pressure.

The photographs below show the progress of one of these trees in the years since then.

Hazel bush in Glen Affric, 1999

Alan Watson Featherstone in October 1999, beside one of the hazel trees planted in May 1997 on the north shore of Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin (visible in the background). The Netlon tree guard protects the young tree from being eaten by red deer.

Hazel bush in Glen Affric, 2003

By August 2003, when this photograph was taken, the hazel tree had been growing for over 6 years and was now well-established.

Hazel bush in Glen Affric, 2007

October 2007, and the tree has been growing for over 10 years. This year, for the first time, one of the other hazels we planted nearby produced a few hazel nuts, after flowering in the spring.

Hazel bush in Glen Affric, 2009

October 2009, and the tree now towers above Alan. The Netlon guard that protected the tree when it was smaller has been removed, as the tree is large enough now to be safe from the effects of deer grazing and also the thrashing of their antlers on the trunk, which can cause mortality in very small trees.

Hazel bush in Glen Affric, 2009

Late October 2013, and the tree has continued to grow in both height and spread. It also has several new stems, as a result of hazel's natural propensity to produce multiple trunks.


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Published: 19 December 2007
Last updated: 31 January 2014

Trees for Life is an award winning conservation charity working to restore the Caledonian Forest
and all its species to a large contiguous area in the Highlands of Scotland.

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Photos © Alan Watson (unless otherwise indicated) - Banner Credits - Illustrations © Caragh McAuley

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