With uncharacteristically good timing, I found these catkins of woolly willow (Salix lanata) at their peak when I went to Glen Clova, Angus, earlier this week. This is one of the 15 alpine species at risk from high altitude warming (as well as browsing by mountain hare and voles at some sites) that I have on my list for Nostalgia for Snow. This rarity is on the southern edge of its world distribution here and the relict willow zone it occupies is extremely restricted in Scotland. Woolly willow is is distinguished early in the year from the similar S. lapponum by having greener twigs (although that is not so apparent in this specimen) and more widely spaced buds. The amount of hairness is a less reliable indicator early and late in the season.
It is normal on these alpine jaunts to have the hill to yourself. Not so here: not only were there two Chileans (perhaps the first ever in this coire!) -one of whom was preparing a Masters thesis on the plant and who confirmed identification for me – but also another photographer working on a commission to photograph a variety of mountain willows who appeared out of the blue.
This picture will be finished with an appropriate border and font for the project, in due course.
Tempting though it would have been to make the shot in a botanical garden, the setting and fine weather made the climb with 20kg of gear worthwhile.