Lochaber is renowned for the diversity and species richness of their woodlands, including oak, mixed ash and hazel, wet woodland and Caledonian pine forest. The deciduous woodlands are home to a range of birds including warblers, tits, redstarts, flycatchers, woodpeckers, tawny owl and woodcock, to mention but a few, as well as pine marten, badger, wildcat, and pipistrelle and long-eared bats. 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).
The internationally important species-rich Atlantic oak woodlands of Loch Moidart, Loch Shiel, Loch Sunart and Glen Beasdale support 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). Several highly oceanic species, such as hay-scented buckler fern (Dryopteris aemula) and Tunbridge filmy fern (Hymenophyllum tunbrigense) are found in woods in Morvern. Depending on soil type, understorey species range from bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus), lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) and common dog violet (Viola riviniana) to heather/bilberry assemblages on very acidic soils (Calluna vulgaris, Vaccinium spp and Erica spp). Ferns can be also be common, including deer fern (Blechnum spicant), the mountain fern (Oreopteris limbosperma) and the less common lady fern (Athyrium filix-femi). Associated arboreal species include birch (mainly Betula pubescens), rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), hazel (Corylus avellana) and holly (Ilex aquifolium).
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 and ferns, including long-leaved helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), 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.
Isolated remnants of native Caledonian pinewoods can also be found in Glen Nevis, Ardgour, Glen Loy, Glen Gary 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, williow, 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), various wintergreen species (including Pyrola minor, P. media and Orthilia secunda), creeping lady's tresses (Goodyera repens), the nationally scarce twinflower (Linneaea borealis), as well as small populations of crossbill, crested tit and black grouse. Siskin, 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.
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. 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.
Come and explore the ancient remnants of the wild woods from temperate rainforest to Caledonian pine forest.