Craigleith Tree Mallow Project

Tree Mallow in flower
Tree Mallow (Lavatera arborea) is a plant normally to be found growing in Atlantic and Mediterranean coastal areas. In Britain it can be found on the south west coasts of England and Wales.

In the Firth of Forth, Tree Mallow has been growing on Bass Rock for at least three hundred years. It is thought to have been used by the lighthouse keepers in the treatment of burns. Since then this alien plant has spread to most of the other islands in the Forth.

Puffin and Tree Mallow On the island of Craigleith, numbers of breeding Puffins (Fratercula arctica) have been seriously declining since 1999. A study by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) came to the conclusion that one of the main reasons for this decline is the proliferation of Tree Mallow, which now covers most of the island. Puffins dig burrows in which they raise their chick. The tree mallow is now so dense that it is impossible for them to reach many of the areas which they have traditionally used.

SNH, CEH and the Scottish Seabird Centre have been assisting RDF Media in the making of a television programme to be shown on Channel 4 in late 2006. This programme shows the problems caused by Tree Mallow on Craigleith. Filming took place on the island on 6th and 7th September 2006 and involved volunteers who spent these two days cutting the Tree Mallow in two pre-defined areas. The primary concerns are a) to prevent erosion and b) prevent disturbance to the soil which would trigger germination of seeds already there. Now that the shelter created by the mature plants has been removed, it is hoped that winter frosts will kill off the young plants which remain. The vegetation of Craigleith in 1977. Click for a larger picture

The aim was to clear approximately twenty percent of the island. The project will continue over the next few years and will maintain the areas already cleared and then extend them. The hope is that the tussocky grass and other flora which used to cover the island will return.

Click here to see some photos taken during the two days spent on Craigleith cutting the Tree Mallow.

Click here to read the CEH information about Tree Mallow on Craigleith.

Click here to see where the island of Craigleith is.

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