Grazing patterns threaten Scottish flower

Changing grazing practices in Scotland have led to the reduction of a small primrose variety that is now in danger of becoming extinct.

Scottish Natural Heritage figures show that the Primula scotica grows in just three areas of Scotland and has recently had its natural habitat pinned back even further, the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) revealed.

Measuring just 5cm in height, the plant grows wild in the Orkney Islands, Sutherland and Caithness, but is in danger of slipping into obscurity.

It is seen in areas of short grassland on cliff tops and while the plants number in their thousands in some areas, almost 40 colonies have disappeared.

It is thought that these lost specimens may have been overrun by more dominant plants after grazing in the area was stopped.

This allowed the areas more vigorous varieties to grow unchecked and may be responsible for the decimation of the Primula scotica.

Survey manager Sally Ward said: "The key to its success, or failure, is grazing in which grass is kept tightly cropped. The fortunes of Primula scotica rise and fall with livestock numbers."

The news comes after the RHS revealed that certain species of maple are at risk of becoming extinct in their natural habitat of China.