Page last updated at 23:20 GMT, Monday, 19 May 2008 00:20 UK

Bid to boost 'charismatic' tree

Expert examines aspen root sucklers
Root suckers are crucial to the growing of aspen

Thousands of aspen trees are being planted across the Highlands in a bid to increase its numbers.

North Highland Forest Trust (NHFT) said the species was important to rare insects and a key component in healthy wild habitats.

Root cuttings have been nurtured in a nursery to provide "clones" of the parent tree.

Steve Robertson, of NHFT, described aspen as a "charismatic" tree for forest biodiversity.

As many as 2,500 will be planted this year with more in following years.

Mr Robertson said: "Aspen is important to the survival of a species of hoverfly, moth and moss. They can't do that in a small group of trees, they need 40, 50, 100 trees."

The wildlife are the aspen hoverfly, dark bordered beauty moth and blunt-leaved bristle moss.

Mr Robertson added: "Associated challenges with the spread of aspen are mainly related to the fact that aspen is not a prolific seed producer, indeed it is likely that few if any trees produce seed this far north.

"Aspen instead maintains a foothold through producing new stems from root suckers, effectively producing clones of the parent tree.

"It would also appear possible that many existing clones are male and so, of course, if there are no female trees within pollination distance, seed production is even less likely."

Roddy Macleod, of Forest Enterprise Scotland, which has planted hundreds of young aspen, said it was a positive project.

Funding for the effort has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund through Highland Council's Highland Biodiversity Action Plan Implementation Programme.

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