Lochaber is renowned for the diversity and species richness of its broadleaved deciduous woodlands, including Atlantic oak woodlnd, mixed ash and hazel woodland and wet woodland. There are also some lovely remnants of Caledonian pine forest. The deciduous woodlands are home to a range of birds including warblers, tits, redstarts, flycatchers, tree pipits, tree creepers, greater spotted woodpeckers, jays, tawny owls, sparrowhwaks and woodcocks, to mention but a few, as well as pine marten, badger, wildcat, roe deer and pipistrelle and long-eared bats. Otters also use woodland as natal holts. These woods also support a rich diversity and abundance of fungi, as well as the providing habitats for the rare chequered skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon), pearl bordered fritillary (Boloria euphrosyne) and small pearl bordered fritillary butterflies (Bolaria selene), as well as purple hairsteak (Favonius quercus)and speckled wood (Pararge aegeria) .
The Atalntic oak woodlands are charactersized by ancient gnarled sessile oaks, with downy birch (Betula pubescens), holly (Ilex aquifolium), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), hazel (Corylus avellana)), strewn with mosses and lichens. The internationally important species-rich Atlantic oak woodlands of Loch Moidart, Loch Shiel, Loch Sunart and Glen Beasdale support many distinctive lichen communities including parmelion, lobarion, usneion and graphidion, a real treat for lichenologists. These woods also support rare moss and liverwort communities, including the nationally scarce Plagiochila atlantica, Opegrapha fumosa (Smokey Joe) and Acrobolbus wilsonii (Wilson's Pouchwort). Depending on soil type, understorey species range from bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus), lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), common cow wheat (Melampyrum pratense) , goldenrod (Solidago viraurea) (and common dog violet (Viola riviniana) to heather/bilberry assemblages and common wintergreen (Pyrola minor) on more acidic soils (Calluna vulgaris, Vaccinium spp and Erica spp). Ferns can be also be common, including deer fern (Blechnum spicant), male and buckler ferns (Dryopteris spp), lady fern (Athyrium filix-femi), the mountain fern (Oreopteris limbosperma), common polypody (Polypodium vulgare agg.) and Tunbridge filmy fern (Hymenophyllum tunbrigense).
Ash and hazel woods in the river gorges of the Morvern coast, at Glen Cripesdale on the shores of Loch Sunart in the Ardnamurchan, at Glasdrum and along the shores of Loch Leven similarly support a high diversity of flowering plants, including long-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), early purple orchid (Orchis mascula) and sanicle (Sanicula europaea). Other species associated with these woods include Norwegian specklebelly lichen, (Pseudocyphellaria norvegica), the rare liverwort, Lejeunea mandonii, as well as hazel gloves fungus (Hypocreopsis rhododendri), and barred tooth-striped moth (Trichopteryx polycommata). There is a particularly fine example of ash and hazel woodland, designated as an SSSI, associated with the small hamlet of Ach an Todhair on the slpoes of Loch Linne. Atlantic hazel wood is usually found growing in basaltic soils neasr the coast, whereas ash woodland is mainly confined to ravines and steep slopes, assocaited with limestone and basalt.
Isolated remnants of native Caledonian pinewoods can also be found in Glen Nevis, Ardgour, Glen Loy, Glen Garry and along the southern banks of Loch Arkaig, south shore of Loch Tulla and in small scattered pockets throughout Moidart. Pine woods contain Scots pine intermixed with birch, willow, rowan and juniper; the arboreal flora depending on local conditions. These pinewoods support a diversity of epiphytes and ground flora species, including bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), cowberry (Vaccinium vitis idaea) various wintergreen species (including Pyrola minor, P. media and Orthilia secunda), lesser twayblade (Listera cordata), creeping lady's tresses (Goodyera repens), the nationally scarce twinflower (Linneaea borealis), as well as small populations of common crossbill, crested tit (Glen Garry) and black grouse. Siskin, goldcrest, coal tit, red squirrel, wild cat and pine marten are frequently associated with these woods, as well as wood ants, several fritillary butterflies, Scotch Argus and green hairstreak. Raptors such as goshawk, sea eagle and osprey may also nest in pine woodland.
Alder carr can be found along river banks and edges of Loch Shiel and Loch Lochy and form a successional stage in the hyrdosere. Alder is found in association with willow and sallow and the ground flora is dominated by purple moor grass (Molinia caerulea). Fine examples of bog woodland are found in Blar Mor and Lon Leanachain. A good example of an Alder Ash woods occurs at Carnach in the Leven Valley, and on the slopes of Glencoe and Onich.
Upland birch woodland are scattered through Lochaber and contains mainly downy birch (Betula pubescens), silver birch (B. pendula) with rowan, willow, and aspen. Birch is a pioneer species of wet ground but remnants of ancient birch woodland can be seen in certain upland localities throughout Lochaber. The ground flora is particularly rich on basic rocks in gullies and rocky ravines. Ard Trilleachan in the vicinity of Loch Etive is an SSSI on account of the quality of its oak and birch woodland.
Aspen can also be seen in Lochaber associated mainly with crags and gullies.
Come and explore the ancient remnants of the wild woods from temperate rainforest to Caledonian pine forest.