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Save the Sowthistle

Introduction

In March this year, inspired by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh project to protect and conserve endangered native alpine plants, I launched the first in a series of Woolly bags to highlight the climate crisis facing our planet.

I am delighted now to launch the second design, Save the Sowthistle which highlights the problems facing the Alpine blue-sowthistle (Cicerbita alpina) as described by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE):

a tall herb at home on mountain grasslands and very palatable to grazing animals. As such it has become restricted to just four small mountain ledges beyond the reach of deer and sheep.
Because small, isolated, populations have lower genetic diversity than larger populations their ability to evolve and adapt to environmental change is limited. RBGE is undertaking some radical regeneration work. Following collecting trips by colleagues in the Science and Horticulture Divisions, new populations of Cicerbita alpina, with increased genetic diversity, are being propagated at RBGE’s Nursery. When robust, they are translocated back to their natural mountainside environments, where grazing animals are now being managed in sympathy with habitat restoration. The future is looking brighter for Cicerbita alpina. (RBGE, 2019)

 

Research

To get a feel for the plant, I again visited RBGE's Herbarium. Lesley Scott, the Assistant Herbarium Curator, kindly assisted me again to view the pressed specimens of the plant.

Dr Aline Finger, who is involved with the plant's regeneration plan, was also very helpful. She chatted at length about the project, answering my many questions, and showed me around the nursery where the Alpine blue-sowthistle and a number of other native plants are being propagated and grown from seed for reintroduction into the wild, as part of the Scottish Plant Project.  This is being overseen by the nursery manager, Martine Borge.

Design

As with my Save the Willow design, I wanted to impart the message that climate change and grazing could potentially lead to the plant's extinction. To achieve this, one plant out of every four no longer has flowers.  These have disappeared as a result of overgrazing and the effects of climate change which has led to a reduced snow cover during the winter.

The geology of the Cairngorm Mountains in the Highlands of Scotland consists of Dalradian and Moine Supergroup metamorphic rocks intruded by massive granite plutons. The background Sholmit/White colour of the design represents the composition of these Cairngorm rocks. The peaked Leprechaun pattern represents both the sowthistle’s triangular shaped leaves and the shape of the mountains. The plants themselves have been detailed in Leprechaun for the stems and Violet for the flowers. The yarns used are all from the Jamieson’s of Shetland Spindrift range of 2-ply jumper weight Shetland wool.  A complimentary grey handle and lining fabric from Scottish Linen have been chosen to represent the geology of the granite plutons of the Cairngorm Mountains.

Launch

Woolly Originals' project bags in the Save the Sowthistle design will be launched at the Perth Festival of Yarn at the Dewars Centre, Perth on Saturday 7th September 2019. Thereafter, they will be available at Yarndale and then online. They will be available in Small, Medium and Large sizes. Please note that 10% of the sale price of these bags will be donated to the RBGE to help fund their conservation and regeneration project work.

Bibliography

RBGE (2019). https://www.rbge.org.uk/news/articles/local-action-and-land-management-help-address-climate-change/

Scottish Natural Heritage (2016). The Species Action Framework Handbook

 

Plant photographs courtesy of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

 


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